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Self Help Exercises

The following exercises can be helpful to give you greater awareness of the triggers and reasons for your gambling. Ultimately, they may help you to gain control of your gambling behaviour.

Gambling Diary

Keeping a record is important so you can gain a better insight into your behaviour, how much of your money and time you spend, how you feel whilst gambling, the triggers and the consequences of gambling.’

In your diary entries, try to keep track of’

  • What you were doing
  • Who you were with
  • Time and money spent
  • What type of gambling
  • The consequences

Keeping a consistent record is important – depending on how often you gamble you may want to complete it between once and a few times per day.’,

After completing your diary for a couple of weeks and having a look back to your notes you may be able to identify some trends. For example, it may be that you tend to feel alone and anxious before starting gambling.

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The Crossroads 

This exercise involves weighing up the problems and the benefits of stopping or reducing your gambling.

Take your notebook and write down the negative things that may happen if I continue gambling, and any positives you can expect.

Then further down or on a separate page, write down the positive things you think may happen if you stop gambling.

This exercise will help you to identify the possible gains and losses of your gambling habits and maintain your motivation and commitment to improve your current situation.

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 Avoidance of risks and triggers

A helpful strategy, particularly in the early stages for people who are trying to stop gambling, is to learn to recognise and avoid situations that may trigger the urge to gamble. Avoidance is a recommended tactic until you develop the skills to cope and avoid relapse.

In this exercise, make a table with two columns. The first column is for things that trigger your urge to gamble. An example trigger is walking or driving past a bookmaker on your way to work. The second column is for things you can do to reduce the triggers – for the above example, this could be changing your route to work to avoid bookies.

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 Improve your problem-solving skills

It is very common that people who suffer from a gambling disorder enter into a process of circular thought – thinking that the solution to problem gambling is gambling. Winning a jackpot is an unlikely and unrealistic solution that will only make the problem worse.

By developing realistic ways to solve problems or worries that may be causing anxiety you will be able to improve your current situation.

You need to make a table with two columns, similar to the above exercise. In the first column write down the problem or worry – for example, gambling debt – and in the second, put a realistic solution. For our example, a realistic solution could be to unify all debts on one loan with less interest; agree on affordable payments; or ask a trusted individual to manage your finances until you are back in control.

Remember most of the solutions to life’s problems require time and effort and need to be tackled one step at a time.

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 Dealing with the urge to gamble

Delay:  The urge to gamble won’t last forever. After a period of time the urge will pass. Try techniques to delay gambling as much as you can and eventually the craving will pass.

Distract: Fill the time that you would have used for gambling with an equally rewarding activity to distract yourself.

Decide: Make the decision to stop gambling, and remember all the things you have to lose. Cravings only remind you of the good things about gambling so challenge those thoughts and remind yourself of all the reasons why you decided to change and to stop gambling.

Look back at the previous exercises you have completed to help remind you how far you have come.

 Download your worksheet in PDF form