Most of us find ourselves contemplating change as each year draws to a close. It’s common for people to begin to reflect on the past year and begin to think of how they’d like to manage their lives differently in the year ahead. We often make resolutions like, “This year, I will lose weight,” or drink less, or change my gambling habits, or do more exercise. Those are all pretty standard new year’s resolutions — in a normal year. For most of us, nothing about 2020 was normal.
January 2021 has felt very different. People are already tired! A lot of us have realised we need to make changes but the required energy is just not there. So the question is: Is it still possible to change when I’m already so tired?
The answer is yes. We’ve got some tips to help you make changes that will last even longer than the six weeks or so that New Years’ Resolutions normally last.
Resolution One: Give yourself permission to make small changes that you can build on
2021 has already shown us that it is likely to bring as much disruption as 2020. This is not a time to overcomplicate your life. Try and follow the KISS principles — Keep It Simple, Stupid. A solution that follows the KISS principle might look boring or even trivial but if it is simple and understandable it will be easier to maintain.
For example, if your gambling has become too expensive in 2020, some KISS principled solutions might be:
- Apply to your bank to block or limit access to use of your account for gambling, rather than saying to yourself that you “should” be able to stop through willpower alone.
- If your gambling is tied to your alcohol consumption, decide to make every second drink a glass of water or only drink alcohol in places where gambling is not available.
- Buy ad blocking software for your devices rather than having to manage the urges to gamble that come with every ad to your phone. Most of this software comes with a cost, but it’s worth it compared to the cost of unwanted gambling.
Resolution two: Don’t try and change too many things at once
Dr Breanna Wright, a behavioural change expert from Monash University, explains, “One of the most important things is not trying to change too many things at once.” Instead we should start “trying to achieve one change” that can then be turned into a habit. “That’s when the change is really powerful – because once something is a habit you are likely to do it every day.”
She says that when trying to introduce a new habit, “it’s better to focus on one thing at a time and make it specific”. She recommends tying the new habit into an established routine that won’t change — such as going for a walk which has numerous benefits in the morning (new habit) before you brush your teeth (old habit).
Here’s how you can apply this if you’d like to make changes related to gambling:
- Take a small amount of gambling money from the bank’s ATM rather than from the ATM’s in the venue (so you realise it is your savings you are spending) (new habit) before going to meet your friends at the venue (old habit).
- Say to yourself “I am taking a break from gambling” rather than “I have to stop gambling” and organise this break with your online gambling provider.
Resolution Three: Begin by focusing on your sleep
Experts tell us that healthy habits support other healthy habits. There are some habits—called “keystone habits”—that can cause a chain reaction through every facet of your life. An area that most of us could improve is sleep. If our sleep improves, our mood improves, our relationships improve, and we are less likely to make food or exercise decisions that we regret.
However, many things in our lives interfere with the quality of our sleep. 2020 was so stressful — with incredible tension building for months on end — that lots of people are having problems with their sleep. Once you are able to implement better sleeping habits, you will be in a better place to tackle issues around your gambling.
Still following the KISS principle:
- For one week, try to build a routine of set bedtime and wake-up time. This is easier to achieve if you develop a wind-down routine to get yourself ready for bed i.e. ditch scrolling through social media on your phone and read a book for 30 minutes before bed time. There is a lot of information out there about sleep and how and why you can improve yours.
- If waking in the middle of the night is an issue, try this free podcast called Nothing Much Happens – Bedtime Stories for Adults. Like the name suggests, it consists of stories where nothing much happens, said in a soothing voice and repeated a second time slower in case you missed it the first time. It comes highly recommended by Gambling Help Online counsellors!
- Your phone or smartwatch may offer apps and settings to help you build healthier sleep settings. Find out more about the native settings offered by iPhone and apps available for Android.
Resolution Four: Offer yourself compassion by noticing your unhelpful self-talk
Kate James, a life coach and author of Change Your Thinking to Change Your Life, suggests people need to start noticing their self-talk if they are to approach 2021 in a better frame of mind. She encourages people not to be hard on themselves and notes that many problems we have start from beating ourselves up.
If you’ve spent more time than you would like gambling, here are some ideas you can use to counteract your unhelpful self-talk:
- Remind yourself that poker machines are designed to be addictive and if you have succumbed to the addictive quantities of their design, this is what they are designed to achieve. Check out this video about the addictive qualities of poker machines.
- Remind yourself that the gambling industry commits vast resources to making a profit (from you!) and that there are steps you can take to limit the damage they can do while you are vulnerable. Remember the times you were able to manage your gambling rather than putting yourself down over the times you did not.
Resolution Five: Plan for 2021 — with or without assistance from someone else
Everything is easier if you have a plan to fall back on and don’t have to scramble to make decisions on the fly.
Make a plan for how you will manage your gambling in 2021. It can be really useful to get help with this! Gambler’s Help counsellors can give you a hand — just reach out and we’ll put you in touch with someone who can help.
Gambling Help Online is here for you 24/7. If you’re trying to establish a new routine as your neighbourhood opens back up, or if you’re freshly back under stricter restrictions, we’re here to talk about any problems you might be facing. Give us a call on 1800 858 858 or chat to us online.