Yellow Submarines & Blue Cars

Yellow SubmarineIf I said that I want you not to think about yellow submarines for the next five minutes. Do you think you could do it? Have you got that? You are not to think about yellow submarines, don’t think about yellow submarines for five minutes.

If you think about a yellow submarine, I want you to record each time, with a tick on a piece of paper or by counting the number of times you think about a yellow submarine on your fingers. Ok?

Start now, remember no yellow submarines for five minutes…

SO how did you go?

For most people, just the act of trying not to think about something, let alone the repetition of the words and the action of recording failures, dooms them to fail.

By striving not to think of something, all of sudden it’s all we can think about. We obsess about it. This especially seems the case for people trying to address problem gambling.

For many of us, by obsessing about not gambling we are more likely to hit the triggers that lead to urges and possibly a lapse or relapse. It can be very demoralising and makes the task of behaviour change ie to be without gambling, even harder.

Trade in your yellow submarine for a blue car

Now I want you to try another exercise. I want you to think about blue cars for the next five minutes. Got that? Blue cars. Imagine driving a shiny blue convertible with the wind in your hair. Blue cars zipping down a freeway. Any blue car will do.

Every time you think of a blue car in the next five minutes I want you to count on your fingers, or  keep score.  Can you do that? Start now…

So how did you go? It’s certainly much easier to think of “something” than it is to “not think about something”, isn’t it?

When we are looking to give up gambling, the challenge is to turn yellow submarines into blue cars.

Change your thoughts change your behaviour

In helping clients put in place strategies to achieve a successful change of behaviour we look at the four areas of time, money, venue and desire. Because these are the four elements that are needed to gamble. You have to have the time to gamble. You have to have money. A place to gamble and most importantly you have to want to gamble.

Tackle time

When we look at the element of time, we look at what are the danger times (when are you most likely to gamble) and then we look at the things that you can do at those times. Not just to keep busy, but we look at the things that are enjoyable, activities that will engage you. By engagement we mean you’re so absorbed time just passes. Those are the Blue Cars we want!

We also look at things that you may have enjoyed doing in the past but stopped doing. Those activities could also be your blue cars! If we focus our attention on the things that we can do other than gambling and you really throw yourself into those activities, you’ll find your enjoyment in those activities will help you spend less time thinking about gambling.

Make a map of where you want to go

As you identify your “blue cars” create reminders of what you want to achieve and record your success – a photo of you doing your blue car activity, pictures, a movie ticket stub or other momentos.

Keep your reminders around you, maybe on a notice board, by your bed, stick them on the bathroom mirror or the fridge or keep a file on your phone. Change and update them regularly so that they don’t become stale or just part of the same old scene.

You want your reminders, symbols and successes to pop back into your mind when you least expect them to get you thinking about them again and to refresh your resolve and intentions.

Money, venue, and desire

Take the same “blue car” approach to money, venue and desire.  What else can you spend your money on, where else can you go for entertainment or to meet up with friends, what else would you like to do? Write lists and create or find pictures that will help you think about activities that you will enjoy, things that will engage you instead of that old regular, familiar and persistent behaviour of gambling.

When you’re looking to get rid of a gambling behaviour don’t get sunk by yellow submarines. Instead, focus on new goals and keep to your plans that will help you drive your blue car to success.

Counsellor Sam

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