Tools for Change looks at strategies to help maintain long-term change. It focuses on ‘internal triggers’, which refer to the ways you think and feel physically and emotionally that affect your gambling.

Thinking straight

Thinking straight can help tackle your gambling. By identifying your ‘pro-gambling’ thoughts (the ones that encourage you to gamble), you are better equipped to challenge them and train yourself to think more realistically.

People who are affected by gambling often show similar thinking errors. For example:

  • Believing that you are in control: Such as “I am on a winning streak”, “the odds are in my favour”, “I have my lucky dice with me” etc.
  • Thinking you can make accurate predictions: Such as “I know which horse will win”, “I know who will score the first goal”, “I know when the slot machine will pay out” etc.
  • Making faulty interpretations of gambling outcomes: Such as, “I have just had a run of losses, a win is just around the corner”, “if I continue now, I will get back the money I have lost”, “I always win more than I lose” etc.

Dealing with urges

Most people will experience ‘urges’ after they try to cut down or stop gambling, particularly early on. They are natural reactions. You may experience urges as a response to particular situations, such as having a row with your partner, meeting up with a friend that you used to go to the casino with, or feeling low or on edge. Sometimes urges will occur without any obvious triggers.

It is helpful to think of urges like waves at a beach. Like a wave, an urge will eventually break and flow away. So, delaying the decision to gamble, even for a short period, can be very effective. You can imagine yourself surfing or riding the wave until it passes.

The more you can practice coping with urges, the better you will be at it and the urges will lessen over time. However, if you give into them by gambling, the urges to gamble will come back more often.

Tips on how to deal with urges

Relax and focus on staying calm

Take some deep breaths to slow yourself down and refocus on the reasons why you decided to stop gambling and what you can do now.

Distract yourself

Distract yourself when you are experiencing an urge and delay the decision to gamble. This allows time for the urge to pass and for you to feel more in control of the decision. Distraction techniques can include things like:

- Calling up a friend
- Turning on the radio
- Going for a walk or jog
- Watering your plants
- Doing housework
- Reading a book

Plan ahead

If an opportunity to gamble on a particular event or at a specific time is coming up, make plans to do something else instead.

Managing difficult emotions

Lots of people gamble to escape from difficult emotions, such as feeling low, bored or stressed. They may also feel shame, guilt or anger after gambling, particularly if they have lost a lot of money, and may continue to gamble to help themselves feel better.  So, it is important to find different ways of coping with how you feel.

You may find it helpful to look at the NHS website for 10 stress busters.

You can also find expert advice to help improve your wellbeing, as well as practical tips for dealing with stress and anxiety, improving your sleep, boosting your mood and feeling more in control on the Every Mind Matters website.

Discussing your worries

Talking about your gambling worries with someone you trust and who won’t judge you can be really helpful, especially if you are experiencing harm from gambling. You don’t have to keep things bottled up inside.

If you are finding it difficult to make changes, a support person can make it easier. This can be your partner, parent, or close friend.

Referral to a specialist

After reading this section, you may also want to talk to a specialist therapist. To do this, you can refer yourself to the NHS West Midlands Gambling Harms Clinic. Don’t forget that this service is free and confidential.

You can also find details for other forms of help and advice on gambling on the NHS website.

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