Healthy Gambling Alternatives That Actually Work

You’ve come to the realization that casino gaming and sports betting is stealing time, energy, and resources from your life. Consequently, you’re searching for ways to fill the space that the activity currently consumes.

Unfortunately, when most people perform an online search for gambling and sports betting alternatives they find recommendations for Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), video gaming, and the like. These activities are gateways to gambling and can send you through a revolving door that brings you right back to what made you search for a way out in the first place. Thankfully your search has landed you here, where we provide inspiration for healthy substitutes.

What makes gambling alternatives healthy, and more importantly, effective? It’s critical to identify activities that provide physiological and psychological responses that are similar to gambling so that your body and mind are able to sustain a similar feeling.

As a gambler, you have noticed that you feel good and are stimulated when winning and even losing. This occurs because gambling drives your brain to release neurotransmitters dopamine and endorphins and also triggers adrenal glands to produce adrenaline. After a while, this response becomes muted and you must gamble more to sustain the same level of energy and emotion. At this point habitual behavior is formed, but in an activity that is wrought with danger. In choosing healthy activities (without the same consequences) that initiate similar physiological and psychological processes you have a better shot of breaking the habitual cycle. The gambling alternatives listed below may help accomplish this. While they may not be the end-all be-all solution to battling moderate to severe gambling disorder, they can become a part of your overall mental health and wellness plan. For those who have a mild gambling compulsion, it can nip the potential for a more severe gambling problem in the bud. Let’s dive in.

6 Healthy Alternatives to Gambling and Sports Betting that Are Effective in Breaking the Chains of Problematic Behavior

Outdoor Recreation

Exercise triggers the brain-body responses needed to help fill the void left by leaving gambling behind. For greater responses, take your exercise outdoors as fresh air together with sunshine increases serotonin levels which is another “feel good” neurotransmitter.

If you live near the ocean, we recommend taking up activities that incorporate this natural environment. Studies have measured increases in serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine in people as they spend time in, on, around or under the ocean. When you combine your brain-body responses of outdoor exercise with the power of the ocean, you enjoy even greater benefits that will help drown out the hold gambling once had on you. Ocean activities such as swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving are great, but there’s some interesting science behind surfing:

“With regards to surfing, we can understand that the brain releases dopamine in many different situations. Whether it’s an anticipated swell, thinking about your next surf, or the simple the feeling of success when you’ve caught an amazing wave. The combination of neurotransmitters (including dopamine, adrenaline, and serotonin) are not only responsible for surfers enjoying the moment, but also for bringing them back over and over again.”

The Inertia

Competitive Team Sports

Gambling Alternatives

This is a great sports betting alternative because it still appeals to your competitive nature (contributing factor to problem gambling) while producing the brain-body responses you need. Don’t rely on “pick up games” as it’s important to develop a consistent schedule of competition to keep you focused. Every city has a number of amateur leagues and organized competitions for people of all ages and skill levels. If you can find one that appeals to you, start one.


Gambling Alternatives

Travel and even the prospect of an upcoming trip releases the required neurotransmitters. Studies have also found that certain types of travel destinations can help mitigate feelings of anxiety and depression, both of which are co-occurring conditions with problem gambling. While you may or may not be able to globe-trot numerous times throughout the year, the research and planning process that goes into leisure travel does trigger the release of the aforementioned neurotransmitters.

Moving forward, create an annual itinerary to destinations that promote time outdoors where you can engage in the above-mentioned activities in addition to exploration of new cultures, even if these destinations are a roadtrip away.


Gambling Alternatives

Meditation helps people get in better touch with their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. This is important to breaking the grip that behavioral health disorders can have on us. Furthermore, Harvard University reports that there is evidence that the brain releases more dopamine when we meditate. Give daily meditation a try. If you have a hard time getting into the zone, consider beginning this journey with a meditation retreat which incorporates other gambling alternatives of travel and outdoor experiences.

Start a Venture that You’re Passionate About

The same personality traits that make certain individuals (i.e. athletes) more vulnerable to problem gambling are also found in many entrepreneurs. These traits include (but are not exclusive to) the following:

  • High levels of energy and commitment
  • Motivated by extrinsic rewards
  • Expectations of winning despite the odds
  • Competitiveness
  • Quest for perfectionism
  • Willingness to make sacrifices 

Channel these traits into something far more productive than gambling, such as starting a venture (for profit or not-for-profit) that you’re passionate about. Passion is especially important so that it’s not just about chasing financial reward. Having a strong and positive emotional attachment to the idea/concept will help you stay focused and motivated as well.

Online Counseling

Logically, counseling for problem gambling is the ultimate solution, but it’s not really an alternative activity, right?

Those who have not participated in effective counseling may not think of it as an “activity” but in reality it can be a highly enjoyable experience that puts you in touch with your emotions and helps you better connect with others who understand what you’re going through. Regularity of sessions is often something that participants sincerely look forward to. You may progress from private one-on-one sessions to group therapy where you engage (as much as you’re comfortable with) with others in the group. Since it may not be feasible to make in-person counseling a normal part of your routine due to limited geographic access and resources, online counseling is a fantastic (and cost effective) supplement or alternative. Learn more about these problem gambling services.

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