Let’s talk gambling
By: Natalie Herron (registered psychologist, clinical registrar) and Dr Anastasia Hronis (clinical psychologist)
Mindfulness is a term you might have heard a bit of recently, but what is it?
Mindfulness is a practice that aims to ground ourselves in the present moment. When used effectively, it helps us to focus our awareness of what is happening within ourselves, while balancing what is going on outside of ourselves. Being mindful is essentially the opposite of engaging in habitual or automatic behaviours.
An inherent aspect of mindfulness is to be able to observe our surroundings and participate in experiences without judgement. This can be particularly effective for thoughts that might be uncomfortable or distressing, as it allows us to change our relationship with our thoughts instead of struggling with our thoughts.
For example, mindfulness skills can be particularly helpful if we find ourselves often getting caught up in the past (e.g., “I can’t believe I did that!”) or worrying about the future (e.g. “What if this happens again?”).
The overall goal of mindfulness is to build flexibility to acknowledge thoughts, feelings, and behaviours as they come up, and to be able to let them pass without judgement.
Research has shown that those who practice and develop the skill of mindfulness, experience a variety of health benefits.
Some of these include improved mood, reduced stress, enhanced physical health, and overall improvements in well-being.
The great news is, mindfulness practice isn’t just about sitting on your lounge room floor in an uncomfortable position trying to meditate. In fact, the most effective mindfulness strategy is the one which works best for you. Here are just a few ways you can start to practice mindfulness:
Focus your mind by taking a moment to simply observe, describe, and participate fully in your chosen activity. Use your senses to fully be aware of the activity you are doing mindfully. E.g. if you are washing the dishes mindfully, notice the feeling of water on your hands, the sound of water splashing, what the soap suds look like etc.
Grounding using our senses
Can you calmly and slowly name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can feel, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste? This exercise helps us ground ourselves in the present moment, and can be particularly useful during times of emotional distress or if you’re experiencing urges to gamble.
Sit down in a comfortable position, letting your body relax into your seat. Take a deep breath in, and slowly breathe out. Start to bring attention to your body. Draw your attention to the top of your head. Can you notice any sensations? If so, describe them. Continue this down your body, releasing any tension as breathe in and out, noticing any sensations are they arise.
Try some meditation that uses imagery, music, or breath to help you focus or open your mind and guide you through the activity. Consider using YouTube and other apps to try these out.
Mindfulness strategies can be used when we are feeling calm, relaxed and in control, but can also be used when we are feeling overly emotional, stressed, or when we are having urges. It is always recommended that you practice skills and strategies like these mindfulness exercises, when you are calm and in a good mental state, so that they become easier to use when you are not.
For more support on this topic or any gambling issue you might want to talk about, call Gambler’s Help on 1800 858 858.
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