18 Essential Activities to Defeat Gambling Addiction and Naturally Increase Dopamine
We have researched ways and activities to help you deal with gambling addiction and increase your natural dopamine intake.
We have found 18 key actions you should follow if you want to quit an addicting habit, gambling or otherwise.
Once you implement these changes and stick to them, you will lead a normal and healthier life in no time. From quitting your damaging habit to developing new beneficial activities, here are the 18 main steps you should consider.
- The Brain’s Bet – Dopamine’s Role in Gambling Addiction
- Your Game Plan to Defeat Gambling Addiction
- 7 Key Activities to Overcome Gambling Urges
- 6 Healthy Eating Habits to Suppress Gambling Addiction
- Your average day after recovering from addiction
The Brain’s Bet – Dopamine’s Role in Gambling Addiction
When talking about how to stop gambling addiction, we have to consider the effects of dopamine on the human brain and behaviour.
Before providing alternate activities to help you cope and recover, you must understand how gambling affects your neural activity.
- A neurotransmitter is generated in the ventral tegmental area, and the nucleus accumbens. It actively participates in the “dopaminergic system” of the brain, mainly concerned with stimuli and reward.
- The brain generates dopamine by converting the amino acid tyrosine into another called L-dopa. Enzymes then turn the latter into the neurotransmitter. While technical, this process becomes important when discussing your diet.
To simplify, dopamine is the brain’s proverbial carrot that motivates organisms to perform tasks for a subsequent reward. A monkey turning a lever knowing it will receive fruit, an employee working in an office for eight hours, a sporadic gambler buying a lottery ticket for a future raffle, or a habitual player logging into top online casinos UK are all (to some extent) animated by similar brain circuitry that uses the same neurotransmitter – dopamine.
Dopamine and addiction
Naturally, a stimulant that regulates task reward in the brain is ripe for abuse. This is also the case since dopamine, to put it simply, feels nice.
The relation between pleasurable stimuli and dopamine (and addictive substances and behaviours) has scientific backing. On one side, consuming addictive substances like cocaine, heroin, and alcohol will release dopamine. If its production is blocked, these stimuli become unpleasant.
Where this kind of stimulation becomes an issue is when we repeat them often. The first time you perform a rewarding activity, you get a dopamine boost. The release stagnates as you repeat the process, determining you to consume (or play) even more. Doing so does result in a more significant amount of dopamine being released. However, even if you continue with the more substantial dose or stimulant, the total amount of neurotransmitter released will return to the previous stagnant value.
In short, in the case of gambling, if you start playing more, you will get an initial rush, but it won’t cut it. You will eventually need to constantly raise the stakes, so to speak. That is the neurological origin of gambling addiction.
How to stop gambling addiction
The process is nothing but complicated, especially for the recovering individual. This is mainly because the brain needs to “rewire” to relinquish previously enforced dopaminergic loops.
Thus, cutting out an addictive behaviour must go in several directions:
- It must provide the appropriate tools to deal with chronic resistance and withdrawal symptoms.
- It should offer another (healthier) source of dopamine that can slowly take the place of your harmful activity.
- The new occupation and source of dopamine must not itself turn into an addiction.
Keeping these three aspects in mind, we can start with the essential step on this journey of bettering oneself – quitting for good.
Your Game Plan to Defeat Gambling Addiction
We will provide three steps for quitting your detrimental play altogether and for good.
There was a time when problem players did not know how to stop gambling addiction. However, thanks to the UKGC’s oversight, the emergence of outreach programs, and the efforts of independent industry watchdogs like CasinoAlpha, things changed for the better.
Nowadays, you have all the tools and help to address your issues and proceed with expert treatment. This leads us to the first step that you must take.
Identify the problem in time
You should not be in denial of your problem gambling. The beginning of your journey to a better life is acknowledging it.
Think about how your gambling affects your day-to-day life, existing and past relationships, and finances. Take a moment to dwell on your current concrete issues and find their origin earnestly. Once you do so regularly, it may surprise you how many seemingly disparate problems go back to a bad relationship with gambling.
Review and meditate on your activity
Experts found that one essential step in recovering from addiction is realising your current state and consciously addressing it.
You should sit down and soberly review your actions and results concerning your gambling activities. Feel free to take notes and write down as many details about your current state as possible.
Once done so, go back and review your revelations. Keep the notes around and go back to them every time you sense a relapse.
Without dwelling on it, you can turn this singular action into a recurring activity. Do not in any way turn your addiction into a universal excuse. Instead, treat your gambling responsibly and decide how it affects your life.
Decide to quit for good
The most critical and challenging action comes next – quitting for good. Unfortunately, your addiction does not have an on-off switch.
Thus, quitting will entail more activities and life transformations than simply deciding to stop. These are the first actions you should take.
Set a quit date
Going cold turkey with your addiction may not prove sustainable in the long run. Quitting abruptly and without a plan could only be an impulsive action.
Instead, you should set a realistic quit date and adhere to it. Choose a reasonable time to give up on gambling.
Always consider the time online casinos will take to return your remaining funds before closing your account.
Write down your intentions
Find a sheet of paper and a pen and write down precisely what you want to do. Set a schedule if necessary and keep the paper close.
You can turn it into a recurring activity. Each time you feel the urge to gamble again, read out your intentions or write them down again.
Even before quitting altogether, try to limit your gambling. Set concrete goals for yourself relating to your playtime, volume, and ordinary life.
Try to reduce the period you gamble each day and incrementally spend fewer funds. Set goals for non-gambling related activities (stay tuned; we will provide some).
Do your best not to relapse
Once the day has come, close all accounts and try your best to eliminate any gambling-related activity.
This is it—your last day of being addicted to casino play. The rest of your life begins now.
Relapses may happen for all recovering addiction survivors. While proving frustrating, it is normal and expected. Proceed with this in mind but do your best to stave off gambling activities.
Eliminate all stimuli related to gambling
What are the elements that remind you of gambling? Did you associate the activity with any other substance, action, or object?
Try identifying them and removing them. This activity includes giving up on gambling paraphernalia or cutting on any associated pastimes you performed while playing.
Gambling addiction is often associated with other types of substance abuse. It usually is the case that the problem players also develop alcoholism or substance abuse. If you exhibit multiple dependencies, seek professional support as soon as possible.
Some compulsive gamblers may also indulge in playing due to various triggers. Thus, problem play becomes an unreliable coping mechanism.
Frequent triggers for addiction
- Uncomfortable Emotions
- Environmental Cues
- Social Isolation
- Mental or Physical Illness
Once you identify them, you should try addressing the real issue and developing healthier coping skills.
Use specific tools
You are never alone in your efforts to better your life. Fair and legally functioning online casino sites in the UK have a suite of responsible gambling tools, including self-exclusion tools.
If you want to block out any gambling-related platforms and advertisements, you can also use Gamblock. The tool will eliminate all related online material.
There also are considerably more outreach programs and institutions. As for any addiction, we recommend starting therapy. However, you can also have several responsible gambling institutions, from support groups to professionals, that can lend a hand when in need.
One of the most critical (and challenging) steps you must complete when quitting is cancelling your casino bonuses. The current British law should make this as simple as possible.
Seek professional therapy
While we can recommend several activities to stop gambling addiction, none will aid as much as going to therapy.
And it is an activity and not just a limited-time treatment. Going to therapy can first be motivated by addiction recovery. Still, you should start seeing it as an essential tool for your overall self-betterment.
Naturally, we have researched and annotated all our recommended activities to stop gambling addiction, but each step in your journey should be overseen, confirmed, or vetoed by a professional therapist. Luckily, most institutions we provide can help you pick an experienced psychotherapist who can offer the help you require.
7 Key Activities to Overcome Gambling Urges
You have renounced gambling altogether. Now, you must find other activities to fill in the space left by your past addictive pastime.
We have consulted expert sources and found alternative activities that will help you keep your commitment and rewire your brain’s dopaminergic circuitry. Performing them regularly will change your life for the better and for good.
1. Exercise regularly
|Physical activity raises endorphin levels
|Anderson and Shivakumar, 2013
|Working out increases sensitivity to serotonin and norepinephrine
|Basso and Suzuki, 2017
|Exercise will increase your energy levels
|Ellingson, Kuffel, Vack, and Cook, 2014
|You will get better sleep when working out regularly
|Exercise enhances brain health, especially in the hippocampus
|Kirk-Sanchez and McGough, 2014
Regular exercise has been positively proven to improve mood and reduce feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression.
Thus, finding a workout routine and sticking with it will be an ideal replacement for abusive gambling.
Exercise releases good hormones
Regular and controlled physical effort has been shown to induce the release of endorphins, your brain’s natural painkiller, and increase sensitivity to serotonin and norepinephrine, which lower stress and anxiety.
It helps with brain health and memory
More surprisingly, exercise also benefits the brain overall. Studies show an increase in the size of the hippocampus related to physical activity. The hippocampus is the part of your brain with an active role in long term memory and learning.
You will also have more energy and better sleep
Six weeks of regular exercise have been shown to reduce feelings of tiredness in people with persistent fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome.
You will also sleep better after exercise, with notable effects for people who suffer from chronic insomnia.
The more popular name for this phenomenon is the runner’s high. Thus, even if it may prove difficult initially, you will develop a nick for it.
Routine is the essence here. Once you develop a habit of exercising, your physical and mental states will take a positive turn.
2. Get enough sleep
|Lack of sleep disrupts natural dopamine rhythms
|Volkow et al., 2010
|Failing to get a night time’s sleep has poor effects on your daily activity
|Volkow et al., 2012
|Getting decent rest with good sleep hygiene rebalances your dopamine levels
|Korshunov, Blakemore, and Trombley, 2017
Dopamine release and sleep are related but inversely. This is because the neurotransmitter induces alertness and wakefulness.
Several studies show how high levels of dopamine are released during the morning and during waking hours. Conversely, they decrease by the time you go to sleep.
Having an irregular schedule or failing to sleep effectively enough disrupts these rhythms. If you stay up through the night, you inhibit the sensitivity of dopamine receptors. This results in reduced concentration and poor coordination, affecting your day-to-day activity.
Good sleep hygiene will keep you active and well-functioning during the day.
Sleep hygiene essentials
- Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep
- Reduce noise in your sleeping area
- Avoid caffeine and similar substances in the evening.
- Use your bed solely for sleeping
3. Listen to music
|Listening to music increases activity in reward and pleasure processing parts of the brain
|There was an observable 9% increase in brain dopamine levels thanks to music
|Salimpoor et al., 2011
Brain imaging studies concluded that listening to music directly affects areas of the brain that process reward processes and pleasure. This spells out dopamine. The effect is considerable, with benefits observable in Parkinson’s disease patients.
A brain disorder that causes unintended and uncontrollable motor functions, like shaking, or stiffness, while also inhibiting normal functions, such as coordination or balance. The condition is caused by the atrophy of basal ganglia nerve cells tasked with creating dopamine. It is worth considering when referring to dopamine production since it can show relevant changes in pathological situations.
Patients that suffered from Parkinson’s increased motor functions considerably when subjected to music. Thus, music is a no brainer for increasing dopamine naturally. Other studies have shown a net 9% increase in dopamine levels from listening to music.
4. Meditate and remove stressors
|Studies proved a relationship between meditation and improved physical and mental health
|Edwards and Loprinzi, 2017
|Meditating for one hour resulted in a 65% dopamine increase in inexperienced practitioners
|Kjaer et al., 2002
|Stressors are precursors to many medical conditions, as well as low dopamine levels
|Oken, Charmine, and Wakeland, 2014
Clearing your mind, letting go of your thoughts, and focusing on your inner self, in a word, meditating, can induce better dopamine levels. Beyond its spiritual or religious connotations, the practice has been shown to have positive effects, physically and mentally.
Researchers observed experienced practitioners increase their dopamine levels by 65%. Naturally, just as in the case of exercise, meditation can help, but only if it becomes a recurrent activity.
More than direct neural effects, meditating will give you a mood swing and make you more motivated to change your lifestyle for the better.
The reduction of stressors should double this approach. These are stimuli that generate stress in your daily life. Think about the parts of your day that are most stressful and their causes. For instance, commuting by car can aggravate your state. Try taking the bike or public transport and see if you are in a better state.
Most dopamine-increasing activities will also be stress removers.
5. Go out into the Sun
|Reduced exposure to sunlight reduces mood-boosting transmitters, and exposure increases them
|Munir and Abbas, 2022
|Sunlight boosts dopamine release in reward and motor areas
|Tsai et al., 2011
|Excessive tanning can become addictive
|Aubert et al., 2016
Fighting the low levels of feel-good neurotransmitters due to giving up on your gambling addiction can be as simple as going outside on a sunny day.
Several studies link spending time in the sunshine to better dopamine levels in reward and motor function regulating parts of the brain. This fact comes with a caveat. The effect is so undeniable that tanning can turn into an addiction, with excessive tanners generating a vicious cycle of exposure to the sun, dopamine release, and desire to repeat.
Since we did stress that you should not replace your gambling addiction with other similar behaviours, especially one that can lead to skin damage and increased risk of skin cancers, we once more advise moderation.
Try limiting your exposure to the sun during peak hours (usually 10:00-14:00) and apply skin protection when the UV index is high (3+).
6. Find hobbies and new passions
Finding new occupations and passions is the best way to get over a troubled past. You should essentially look for activities that can replace your gambling addiction.
Try writing down a list of (non-gambling) activities you currently enjoy or liked growing up. You should also think about your current skills. However, not having any is not a deal-breaker. Learning a brand-new skill or getting into a hobby can be just as effective.
Naturally, you should pick and choose. Starting many plans and activities to stop gambling addiction compulsively can seem most attractive, but it is doomed to fail.
Some recommended activities to stop gambling addiction
- Sports, fitness, or cardio
- Board or community games
- Cooking or baking
- Art and writing
- Hiking and nature walks
- Travelling and going to gigs
- Getting into music
- Independent study
- Volunteer work
- Tending to a pet
7. List out positive changes
By now, you have chosen and engaged in various activities to stop gambling addiction. If you followed through and dedicated yourself to the effort, something must have changed.
You may not see it immediately in your day-to-day life. You should try sitting down at times to analyse your evolution. This will also give you the solace of your state getting better, but it may also motivate you to keep going.
Excerpts generally conceive any change as a several-step process requiring maintenance and assessment. In general, listing how your activities to stop gambling addiction better your life will help you in this effort.
6 Healthy Eating Habits to Suppress Gambling Addiction
You now have several activities to stop gambling addiction and increase dopamine levels in a healthy way. You can go on doing this by changing your diet.
1. Increase your protein intake
|You need approximately 20 amino acids to create all required proteins
|Sonne, Goyal, and Lopez-Ojeda, 2021
|Tyrosine plays a vital role in dopamine and phenylalanine production
|Sonne, Goyal, and Lopez-Ojeda, 2021
|Increasing these two amino acids will also raise dopamine levels. Reduction also corresponds to low dopamine
|Kühn et al., 2019
|You can find such amino acids in protein-rich foods
|Kühn et al., 2019
Amino acids play a crucial role in your body’s protein production, thus helping with processes as far-ranging as brain development, muscle recovery and growth, and DNA-RNA messaging.
Among the many amino acids you require, there are two that directly play a role in producing dopamine in the brain. Your enzymes can transform tyrosine into dopamine, and its levels in your nutrition are closely linked to the neurotransmitter levels. Additionally, tyrosine can also become phenylalanine. Many studies have linked the latter to dopamine production.
These two enzymes can be found in protein-rich foods, like turkey meat, beef, eggs, and dairy, but also in vegetarian products like soy and some vegetables. Thus, you should add eating more protein and a hefty side of vegetables to your list of culinary activities to stop gambling addiction.
2. Eat less fat (especially saturated fat)
|Consuming lots of foods with high saturated fat can disrupt dopamine signalling
|Cone et al., 2013
|Animal studies concluded that changes did not depend on any other physiognomic areas
|Hryhorczuk et al., 2016
|The effect may be due to the inflammation caused by high saturated fat intake
|Décarie-Spain et al., 2018
|Older studies tied the intake to poor memory and thinking without direct ties to dopamine
|Okereke et al., 2013
We are mainly going by animal studies in this case, but these may inform your dietary activities to stop gambling addiction.
Researchers concluded that saturated fat can affect dopamine signalling negatively. In the case of rats, if subjects got 50% of all calories from fats, they reduced the production of the neurotransmitter’s signalling capacity in reward-related areas of the brain. This was the case regardless of other factors, like weight, body fat percentage, hormonal production, or blood sugar. Some researchers hypothesise that the effect is due to the inflammation caused by high saturated fat intake.
Human studies are less conclusive, with some ties between saturated fats and poor memory and thinking capacity. However, cutting out some high-fat products may be among the culinary activities to stop gambling addiction and raise dopamine levels that you should employ.
Some unadvised products
- Animal fat
- Full-fat dairy and butter
- Palm, sunflower, and coconut oil
There is also “good” fat that you can consume. You could try out replacing butter for avocados and getting zero fat oil.
3. Cut down on processed sugars
|Sugar disrupts dopamine levels and becomes addictive
|Avena, Rada, and Hoebel, 2008
|High intake can affect both the gene expression and sensitivity of dopamine receptors
|Blum, Thanos, and Gold, 2014
Sugar and the resultant glucose affect the dopaminergic reward circuitry of the brain, affecting it like other addictive substances like alcohol and drugs.
The effect is so notable that researchers note high glucose in the bloodstream to be one of the causes of the reward deficiency syndrome.
Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS)
It is thought to be caused by a brain reward cascade dysfunction. It results in abnormal craving behaviours.
Think overeating or binging. These are often linked to a form of addiction to processed sugars and glucose. We stress once more that your activities to stop gambling addiction shouldn’t become themselves addictive. However, quitting sugary products may even regulate your mood swings by increasing sensitivity to dopamine receptors.
4. Get more probiotics
|Your brain and gut are closely linked
|Lerner, Neidhöfer, and Matthias, 2017
|Your gut contains many neurotransmitter-producing nerve cells, including dopamine
|Ochoa-Repáraz and Kasper, 2016
|There are bacteria in your gut that can also produce dopamine and induce better moods
|Wall et al., 2014
|Research shows that by ingesting certain probiotics and bacteria, you get reduced anxiety and depression
|MacQueen, Surette, and Moayyedi, 2017
Who would have ever thought that one of the activities to stop gambling addiction could go through the gut?
Yes, the gut is so closely linked to your brain (given its many nerve cells that produce neurotransmitters) that some scientists casually refer to it as the second brain. One thing the gut does is generate dopamine via some bacteria strains native to it. Several studies cover a tie between mood in humans and animals and the presence of certain bacteria.
While the jury is still out on whether yoghurt could cure your depression, getting enough probiotics in your diet is one of the activities to stop addiction you should take.
5. Try out velvet beans
|Velvet beans contain high levels of L-dopa
|Zafar and Yaddanapudi, 2021
|Consuming velvet beans helps increase your dopamine levels
|Recent studies show possible long-term effects in Parkinson’s disease patients for non-toxic doses
|Katzenschlager et al., 2004
|Velvet beans are toxic in high amounts
|Lampariello et al., 2012
|Fava beans also have L-dopa
|Mohseni and Golshani, 2013
Velvet beans have high amounts of L-dopa. If you remember the basics of dopamine secretion, L-dopa is one transformation away from being the neurotransmitter.
Velvet beans have been employed in treating Parkinson’s patients with relatively successful results. Thus, when used appropriately, they could serve as one of the activities to stop gambling addiction.
Note, however, that velvet beans are toxic when consumed in large amounts.
Consult a healthcare professional before making any drastic and potentially dangerous changes to your diet.
Fava beans are also a species that contains considerable concentrations of L-dopa, making them possible alternatives.
6. Get supplements if needed
|You need many vitamins to function correctly
|Kim and Wessling-Rosenick, 2015
|Some, especially vitamin D and C, play a part in dopaminergic circuitry, the onset of depression, and cognitive impairment
|Anjum et al., 2018
|Magnesium, vitamin D, curcumin, oregano extract and green tea all help with your mood
|Cardoso et al., 2009
Your body needs many vitamins to function correctly, most of which you should be able to receive from a correct and balanced diet.
When you lack some essential vitamins, you may develop medical conditions or psychological affections. In the case of your reward systems, vitamins C and D, as well as magnesium and other plant extracts, play a considerable part.
Naturally, taking some extra vitamin supplements won’t be among the activities to stop gambling addiction alone. However, an unbalanced lifestyle comes with an unbalanced body.
Thus, taking some vitamin C, D, or magnesium tablets may aid in generating extra dopamine when giving up on playing casino games, this being the scope and aim of all activities to stop gambling addiction.
Your average day after recovering from addiction
Once you make a routine out of these healthy activities to stop your gambling addiction, your life will show a drastic turn for the better.
You would wake up rested, thanks to appropriate sleep hygiene and a well-regulated dopaminergic rhythm.
Your morning routine would be punctuated by a healthy meal with higher amounts of protein and vitamin-rich products and less saturated fats and processed sugars. By now, you should have a sport or fitness routine that guarantees a healthier mind and body.
You should spend your day meditating, following your newly acquired passion and going to therapy regularly. Once you get into the routine of it, you will proceed with positive activities to stop gambling addiction out of habit.
Naturally, your life and routine will only get better and better, granted that you do not relapse. However, one thing that you discover once you quit your addictive actions is that you have considerably more time for all occupations that make you happy and bring something to your life.
In no time, these activities to stop gambling addiction will slowly become passions that will change your mental state and social standing for the better.