6 Activities To Stop Your Gambling Addiction & Raise Your Dopamine Levels
Designing a plan to quit gambling addiction is half the work, and we’re here to help you achieve this.
This article contains 18 key actions NZ players can follow to quit their gambling addiction, and increase their dopamine intake naturally.
Once implemented, the changes will bring you closer to leading a healthier lifestyle. Here’s what you should know:
- Gambling addiction and dopamine
- Starting steps to stop gambling addiction
- Seven activities to stop gambling addiction
- Six dietary activities to stop gambling addiction
- Your average day after recovering from addiction
Gambling addiction and dopamine
When talking about how to stop gambling addiction, we have to consider the effects of dopamine on the human brain.
Before providing alternate activities to help you recover, you should understand how gambling affects your neural activity.
How does dopamine work?
Dopamine motivates organisms to perform tasks for a subsequent reward. Just as an employee works for eight hours to receive a salary, a habitual player logs into online casinos New Zealand to play: while the actions are distinct, both decisions are determined by dopamine.
Dopamine and addiction: Are they connected?
Addictions are mainly triggered by the long-term effects of dopamine, which provides NZ players with a pleasant feeling:
- The relation between pleasurable stimuli, dopamine, and addictions has scientific backing;
- Consuming addictive substances like cocaine, heroin, and alcohol will make your brain release dopamine;
- If its production is blocked, these stimuli become unpleasant.
This relationship becomes an issue when repetition occurs
Here’s how it works:
- The first time you perform a rewarding activity, you get a dopamine boost;
- The release stagnates as you repeat the process, incentivising you to consume (or play) in greater volume;
- Doing so results 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.
What does this mean?
When it comes to gambling, your body’s tolerance of dopamine secretion increases. To obtain the same pleasure as in the beginning, you will have to progressively raise the stakes, and play more.
How to stop gambling addiction
The process of stopping your gambling addiction is simple, yet it requires a lot of mental strength.
This is mainly because the brain needs to “rewire” to give up on previously enforced dopaminergic loops.
To be successful, NZ players need:
- The appropriate tools to deal with chronic resistance and withdrawal symptoms;
- Another source of solace 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.
Starting steps to stop gambling addiction
Identify the problem in time
To identify the problem, NZ players should first gather the strength to combat denial.
The beginning of your journey to a better life is acknowledging it.
There are several ways you can achieve this:
- Think about how your gambling affects your day-to-day life, relationships, and finances;
- Take a moment to dwell on your current concrete issues and find their origin earnestly;
- Once you make a habit out of this introspection, it may surprise you how many seemingly disparate problems go back to an unhealthy 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 you do 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, NZ players can turn this singular action into a recurring activity.
Decide to quit for good
The most critical and challenging action comes next – quitting for good.
Unfortunately, addiction does not have an on-off switch.
Thus, quitting will entail more activities than simply deciding to stop. These are the first actions NZ players can take:
Set a quit date
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.
To minimise your losses, consider the time online casinos will take to return your remaining funds before closing your account(s).
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.
NZ players 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 actively addicted to casino play.
The rest of your life begins now!
Don’t get discouraged if your first try is ineffective!
Relapses happen for all recovering addiction survivors. While it is frustrating, it is normal and expected. Be proud of the progress you’ve achieved so far, and you may do better on your second try!
Eliminate all stimuli related to gambling
What are the things that remind you of gambling?
Did you associate the activity with any other substance, action, or object? Try identifying and removing them.
- Giving up on gambling paraphernalia;
- Cutting on any associated pastimes you performed while playing.
Gambling addiction is often associated with substance abuse. For instance, many problem players also develop alcoholism. If you exhibit multiple dependencies, seek professional support as soon as possible.
Some NZ players 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 illnesses
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.
Here are a few additional tools you can use to overcome your gambling addiction:
- Responsible gambling institutions in NZ that can provide guidance, references, and treatment plan options;
- Additional suggestions from our experts on how to stay away from gambling addiction as a New Zealander;
- Research on New Zealand laws regarding gambling to help you learn about the legal protections you can benefit from, as well as what to avoid during gambling when relapsing;
- Research New Zealand casino terms and conditions for any responsible gambling tools you may use;
- Tools for underage gambling prevention to protect your child against this addiction.
Seek professional therapy
While we can recommend several activities to stop gambling addiction, none will aid as much as going to therapy:
- Going to therapy can first be motivated by addiction recovery;
- However, therapy is an essential tool for your overall self-betterment.
Our opinion isn’t enough!
While we have researched all our recommended activities to stop gambling addiction, each step in your journey should be overseen, confirmed, or vetoed by a professional therapist.
Luckily, most institutions we recommend can help NZ players pick an experienced psychotherapist that can guide them through the recovery process.
Seven activities to stop gambling addiction
Some NZ players may have renounced gambling altogether.
Now, you should find other activities to fill in the space left by your past addiction.
We have consulted expert sources and found alternative activities that will help you keep your commitment and rewire your brain’s dopaminergic circuitry.
Can such activities truly help?
Yes. Performing them regularly will increase NZ players’ chances of leading healthier lives.
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||Vyazovskiy, 2015|
|Exercise enhances brain health, especially in the hippocampus||Kirk-Sanchez and McGough, 2014|
Regular exercise has been proven to boost your mood and reduce feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression.
Thus, finding a workout routine and sticking with it can be an ideal replacement for abusive gambling.
Exercise releases good hormones
A regular and controlled physical effort has been shown to:
- Induce the release of endorphins, your brain’s natural painkiller;
- Increase sensitivity to serotonin and norepinephrine, which lower stress and anxiety.
It helps with brain health and memory
Surprisingly, exercise also benefits the brain.
Studies show an increase in the size of the hippocampus related to physical activity.
What is the hippocampus?
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 NZ players with persistent fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome;
- You will also sleep better after exercising, with notable effects for people that suffer from chronic insomnia;
- These phenomena are known as “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 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, 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.
What consequences does staying up all night have?
Losing sleep for an entire night results in reduced concentration and poor coordination, affecting your day-to-day activity.
Good sleep hygiene keeps NZ players 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||Koelsch, 2014|
|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.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
- 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 can help NZ players increase their levels of dopamine.
Other studies have shown a net 9% increase in dopamine levels from listening to music.
4. Meditate and remove stressors
|Studies proved a relation between meditating and improved physical and mental health||Edwards and Loprinzi, 2017|
|Meditating for one hour resulted in a 65% dopamine increase 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 and letting go of your thoughts through meditation can induce satisfactory 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%.
How can meditation help?
- Just as in the case of exercise, meditation can help NZ players, but only if it becomes a recurrent activity;
- More than having direct neural effects, meditating will make you more motivated to change your lifestyle;
- 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 find yourself 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 quitting gambling 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 stressed that NZ players should not replace their gambling addiction with other similar behaviours, 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 NZ players can get over a troubled past.
You should essentially look for activities that can replace your gambling addiction. Here’s how:
- 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
- Going to gigs
- Listening to music
- Independent study
- Volunteer work
7. List out positive changes
NZ players may not see it immediately in their day-to-day lives.
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.
Six dietary activities to stop 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. Get more protein
|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
- 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.
Where can NZ players find these enzymes?
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.
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|
Researchers concluded that saturated fat could affect dopamine signalling negatively.
Here are some findings from studies conducted with animals:
- 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.
What should NZ players take from these studies?
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 any other addictive substance:
- The effect is so notable that researchers note high glucose in the bloodstream to be one of the causes of the reward deficiency syndrome;
- 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 in 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.
Here are some highlights:
- 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 been employed in the treatment of Parkinson’s patients with relatively successful results.
Thus, when used appropriately, they could serve as one of the activities to stop NZ players from gambling.
Note, however, that velvet beans are toxic when consumed in large amounts.
Don’t make drastic changes by yourself! Consult a healthcare professional before making any drastic and potentially dangerous changes to your diet.
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||Anjum et al., 2018|
- 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.
Extra help in increasing dopamine levels. Taking some vitamin C, D, or magnesium tablets may aid in generating extra dopamine when giving up on playing casino games.
Your average day after recovering from addiction
Once NZ players make a routine out of these healthy activities to stop gambling addiction, 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.
Naturally, your life and routine will only get better and better, granted that you do not relapse.
However, one thing that NZ players will discover once they quit their addictive actions is that they’ll have considerably more time for all occupations that make them happy.
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.
Tell us what you think!
We know that gambling addiction is difficult to manage, which is why we’d like to learn more about it. Tell us your story in the comments below. If you have any questions, our CasinoAlpha experts will be happy to answer them shortly!