Want to quit for good? Find out more about how to stick to your goals and maintain change.

People with gambling problems often find that many of their social contacts and activities involve gambling. One of the most important aspects of maintaining change is finding ways to spend the time they used to spend on gambling.

Finding something else to do to fill the void can be difficult at first. While it may initially seem like nothing is going to feel as exciting as gambling, there are lots of things to look forward once you get it under control. It is important to remember that nothing is going to feel as bad as the remorse after another gambling loss either.

Filling the void can also help with the inevitable urges or cravings that will come your way.

Alternative activities

Now that you have quit or cut down on gambling, it is helpful to think of other ways to spend your time. Many people find that gambling occupied much of their time and consumed a lot of their money and they need something to replace gambling.

Planning to act, think and feel differently can help. It will take conscious effort to do this until new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving become habit.

It is important to develop activities other than gambling to 'fill the gap'.

Thinking

Tapping into your thoughts /thinking processes can be really useful when trying to change behaviour such as gambling. Sometimes our minds can play tricks on us and set us up to gamble. By getting in touch with our thoughts we can start to challenge and change our behaviour and negative thought patterns.

Some examples of thoughts that contribute to an urge to gamble are:

  • "I'm feeling lucky"  
  • "I'm only going to spend $20"
  • "It's a good way to pay for the bills"
  • "I can have bit of fun, it's a good break"
  • "Once won't hurt"
  • “I am going to win big”.

A way to overcome these thoughts is to challenge them. You can do this by asking yourself.

  • What evidence do I have for this, where has it gotten me?
  • What would my partner/loved one say and how would they feel if I gamble again?
  • How does this fit with my goals. How would I feel?
  • Be kind to yourself and remind yourself that these are only thoughts
  • Thoughts cannot harm you or control you, you are in control.

Emotions

Sometimes feeling bad or sad can trigger the urge to gamble. Try an alternative activity that helps you manage and cope with your emotions.

  • Loneliness: call a friend, catch up with friends, join a club
  • Boredom: watch a movie, go to the gym, walk, clean the house, surf the net
  • Restless: go to the gym, exercise, dance, swim, go fishing
  • Sad: do something physical to elevate your mood
  • Angry: Express your frustration in a productive way, talk to someone about how you're feeling, run up a hill, yell at the sky.

If you start to feel overwhelmed with how you are feeling remind yourself that these are only feelings, they cannot physically harm or hurt you. You can take control.

Rewards

Have you ever noticed that when you win you want to play again? Rewards can be a powerful tool to help you maintain change and keep your goals on track.

Why not reward yourself when you don’t gamble, perhaps with a movie ticket, a gym membership or maybe a weekend away?

If your answer is "I'm not worth it", "I have too much debt" or "I have no time", maybe you are undermining your efforts to change. If so, it might be helpful to speak to a counsellor today.

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Next Steps

For help with maintaining change you can: