7 Strategies To Beat Gambling Triggers

gambling triggers what to do

Did you know that 75 to 79 percent of Canadians engage in different forms of gambling, from internet gaming to casino gambling? (1)

For most people, gambling is harmless fun, adding excitement to their leisure time.

Yet it can be harmful if you can’t control it and start spending too much money. Gambling becomes an issue when it messes up different parts of your life, like your health, school or work, money, and relationships with family and friends.

So, how can you tell if gambling is becoming a problem? Well, just ask yourself, “Can I stop whenever I want to?” If the answer is no, it’s essential to take action.

Even if it feels like you’re stuck in a gambling cycle, there are steps you can take to keep it from turning into a compulsion. 

This blog explores various triggers linked to gambling and how to avoid them.

What Are Triggers?

Ever wonder why sometimes you suddenly feel the urge to gamble? It could be when taking cash from the ATM or after a particularly stressful evening.

You see, if you repeat the same behaviour in the same environment a few times, you develop a trigger. (2)

And when you encounter a similar situation, your brain nudges you to react just like before. 

Let’s say you used to gamble whenever boredom hit you. Now, whenever you’re bored, that urge to gamble comes knocking. It’s like your brain has a well-worn path; the more you walk it, the stronger and faster that urge becomes.

Recognizing the factors that urge you to gamble is the first step to quitting or cutting down.

Here are some key triggers for gambling: (3)

  • Stressful events
  • Boredom
  • Loneliness
  • Overconfidence
  • Easy access to gambling
  • Environmental factors such as friends
  • Mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression
  • Retirement 

7 Strategies To Avoid Gambling Urges

Here are seven strategies our experts have found to be the most useful to fight your gambling urges.

The first and the most important thing is to…

#1. Know Your WHY

Triggers can be all sorts of things – situations, thoughts, feelings, or behaviours. For instance, hanging out with friends who love to gamble can be a trigger for many.

So, here’s the plan: start by keeping a journal. Write down what kind of gambling you did and how much time or money you spent. (4)

You can also jot down the thoughts, feelings, and situations that led up to and during your gambling spree. (4)

That way, you’ll get the lowdown on what’s sparking that urge. It’s all about understanding the why behind it all.

#2. Build Resilience

Resilience is a crucial skill that can help you confidently tackle life’s challenges.

One effective way to strengthen your resilience is to reflect on the tough times you’ve faced and the lessons you’ve learned from them. (5) 

This process gives you a better understanding of yourself and your strengths and equips you with valuable tools to face future challenges head-on.

Now, resilience isn’t just about your mental strength; it’s also about taking good care of your body. It also means eating well, staying active through regular exercise, and getting enough rest. 

And don’t forget to do things that bring you joy, like enjoying your hobbies or spending quality time with loved ones. These are all key components of a resilient mindset and lifestyle. 

#3. Stay Away From Temptations

Isolation can be a slippery slope. Instead of spending endless hours on online poker, how about calling your family or friends for a coffee meetup? 

Or, you could switch gears and distract yourself with activities like watching a movie, trying deep-breathing exercises, or hitting the gym.

It can be tricky if you are near or surrounded by your triggers. Some ways to prevent a high-risk situation are to: (5)

  • Stay away from gambling spots
  • Avoid carrying cash and lock your credit cards
  • Avoid taking loans
  • Delete all gambling apps
  • Stay away from places where gambling happens
  • Change your routine to avoid places, people, or activities that trigger your urge

Avoiding your triggers is like putting on armour against those tempting thoughts and emotions that push you to gamble. 

#4. Know The Truth About Gambling 

Here are a few tricky beliefs many have when it comes to gambling and risk-taking while gambling: (6)

  • Gambler’s Fallacy: It’s when you think that if you just lost, your chances of winning next time are higher. But guess what? The odds are always the same, no matter what.
  • Superstitious Thinking: Some believe in lucky numbers and all that jazz. It’s just coincidence, and luck doesn’t really play a part.
  • Illusion of Control: It’s when you believe you can control the outcome of a game. But here’s the truth – whether it’s cards, sports betting, or slot machines, it’s all random, and you can’t change it.

You can fight these beliefs with good old logic and reason. For instance, before you place a bet, think about how much money you might lose. 

#5. Pause And Reflect

When you feel that itch to gamble, don’t rush into it. Give yourself some breathing space, and you’ll find it’s easier to keep those cravings in check. Here’s what you can do: (5)

  • Stay Calm: First, take a deep breath and focus on staying calm. It’s like hitting the pause button on those gambling thoughts.
  • Breathe Easy: Take slow, deep breaths. It’s like giving your mind a soothing massage, and it helps quiet down those racing thoughts.
  • Distract Yourself: Find something else to do that’ll take your mind off gambling – maybe a relaxing warm bath or getting lost in a good book.
  • Wait It Out: Tell yourself you’ll wait at least an hour. During that time, think about what could happen if you give in to the cravings. Picture how you’d feel – maybe regretful or anxious – if you ended up using your family’s grocery money.

# 6. Find A Healthier Alternative

Gambling can alter your brain’s reward system, making it a bit challenging to fill the void when you decide to quit. But you can replace gambling with some healthier alternatives. (7)

  • Master Mindfulness: Activities like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises help you slow down and stay in the present moment. 
  • Get Creative: Whether you prefer music, drawing, painting, or even trying your hand at crocheting, these creative activities will whisk your mind away from those gambling urges and steer it toward something truly rewarding. 
  • Get Active: Exercise has numerous benefits for your physical and mental well-being. Whether you prefer a daily stroll, pumping iron, or cycling through the neighbourhood, any physical activity that keeps your mind off gambling is your new best friend.
  • Give Back: Volunteering is not just a win for others. It’s a win for you, too. Reducing stress and gambling urges. You can lend a helping hand at a hospital or your local animal shelter.

As you dive into these activities, tackling those gambling urges head-on is much easier. By swapping out risky gambling habits for these positive alternatives, you’re rewriting the playbook to a happier, healthier you.

# 7. Seek Support from Loved Ones

Your trusted friends and family are key allies in your fight against compulsive gambling. Sharing your addiction with them is a crucial step that can significantly impact your journey to recovery. They’ll help you avoid gambling triggers and serve as your steadfast support system when stress and anxiety potentially lead to addiction.

Dealing with gambling urges can be a challenging journey, but remember, you don’t have to go it alone. Having a support system is empowering and serves as a guide when you feel lost or unmotivated.

If things get out of control, it can significantly disrupt your daily life and overall well-being.

At Centres for Health and Healing, we approach addiction therapy and rehab uniquely, tailoring our methods to each individual’s needs. 

Our experienced staff, equipped with decades of knowledge, employ a strategic mix of therapeutic techniques to guide you towards a transformative healing journey and full recovery from gambling addiction.

What sets us apart is our high success rate in addiction and mental health treatment programs, accompanied by comprehensive aftercare and support. We are dedicated to ensuring you continue receiving the assistance you need long after completing your treatment.

If you have any questions about gambling addiction or other addiction treatment, we’re here to provide the information you need to make informed decisions about your recovery.

We understand that taking those initial steps toward recovery can be daunting, but your confidence will grow as you begin to experience the positive changes that come with treatment.

Your journey to wellness and recovery begins now, and we’re here to support you every step of the way. Reach out to our treatment centre in Ontario today, and let’s start this journey together.


  1. Statistics Canada. Who gambles and who experiences gambling problems in Canada. Available at: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75-006-x/2022001/article/00006-eng.htm Accessed on Sept 18 2023.
  2. Asensio S, Hernández-Rabaza V, Orón Semper JV. What Is the “Trigger” of Addiction? Front Behav Neurosci. 2020 Apr 21;14:54. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2020.00054. PMID: 32372925; PMCID: PMC7186308.
  3. Molander O, Ramnerö J, Bjureberg J, Berman AH. What to target in cognitive behavioral treatment for gambling disorder-A qualitative study of clinically relevant behaviors. BMC Psychiatry. 2022 Jul 28;22(1):510. doi: 10.1186/s12888-022-04152-2. PMID: 35902829; PMCID: PMC9331573.
  4. Okuda M, Balán I, Petry NM, Oquendo M, Blanco C. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for pathological gambling: cultural considerations. Am J Psychiatry. 2009 Dec;166(12):1325-30. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2009.08081235. PMID: 19952084; PMCID: PMC2789341. 
  5. Wang C, Cunningham-Erdogdu P, Steers MN, Weinstein AP, Neighbors C. Stressful life events and gambling: The roles of coping and impulsivity among college students. Addict Behav. 2020 Aug;107:106386. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2020.106386. Epub 2020 Mar 13. PMID: 32272355; PMCID: PMC8388113.
  6. Jones CM, Noël B. Skin in the game – Erroneous beliefs and emotional involvement as correlates of athletes’ sports betting behavior and problems. J Behav Addict. 2021 Jun 18;10(3):412–21. doi: 10.1556/2006.2021.00034. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34214048; PMCID: PMC8997229.
  7. Matheson FI, Hamilton-Wright S, Kryszajtys DT, Wiese JL, Cadel L, Ziegler C, Hwang SW, Guilcher SJT. The use of self-management strategies for problem gambling: a scoping review. BMC Public Health. 2019 Apr 29;19(1):445. doi: 10.1186/s12889-019-6755-8. PMID: 31035978; PMCID: PMC6489359.
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