In recent years, we’ve seen a focus, like never before, placed on the importance of attending to one’s mental health adequately. Whether through an increased understanding of the way the mind works (which, in turn, allows for an added focus on mindfulness) or because of the mental toll we all suffered while living through a nightmare election cycle and the throes of a pandemic that forced us to stay home, cut off from seeing friends and family as the world seemed to crash down all around us, mental health is a hot topic this day… just as it should be.

The Rise of Online Sports Gambling

We’ve seen a similar explosion in the past half-decade in the popularity of pastimes like sports gambling. Our increasingly interconnected online world makes it easier than ever for people to place wagers at online sportsbooks with the press of a button using a phone or laptop, and while most states in the United States have leaped at the opportunity to bring in that extra bit of tax revenue through legalizing sports gambling, there’s a considerable debate that continues to rage over the ethical concerns of doing so.

Gambling addiction is a very real concern, as the rush that comes from winning a wager from taking those risks is deeply rooted in psychology: the rush of dopamine one feels from these kinds of behaviors can create dependence, and the financial concerns created when someone is using real assets like money in order to do so adds another layer of complexity.

Per the Mental Health Foundation, a United Kingdom-based charity, “Gambling can cause low self-esteem, stress, anxiety and depression if gambling becomes a problem. Gambling can become an addiction, just like drugs or alcohol, if you use it compulsively or feel out of control. Gambling can affect the part of our brain that releases dopamine. A ‘feel good’ hormone that creates feelings of pleasure and reward. When we win a bet, our brain gives us an emotional reward. If you get addicted to gambling, other pleasurable activities may no longer make you feel good. So instead, you will gamble to get the same buzz.”


Rather than pursuing a happy feeling like recreational drug or alcohol users do, gambling offers the temptation of tangible rewards: if you hit on a risky sports bet or win big at the blackjack table, you can reap the physical and financial benefits of doing so.

Strategies for Balanced Gambling and Maintaining Mental Health

Alternatively, while it may not cause the dangerous physical repercussions that using hard drugs can bring, one can wreak havoc in their daily lives through financial means if they aren’t careful gamblers. If you’re suffering through a string of losses at the roulette wheel or a recent run of sports bets doesn’t go your way, it’s hard to make the right decision and get out while you can with the possibility of winning more remaining at your fingertips, the temptation that one savvy bet could turn your fortunes around.

Whether you’re looking to dip your toes in the growing world of betting, want to stay as far away from it as possible, or are already acquainted with the industry, here are some strategies that work for me (as I’ve dabbled in the world of sports gambling in the past) to keep the level head intact.


Perhaps the most important bit of advice I can give is to never bet any money that you can’t afford to lose. Look at each bet you place as if it’s guaranteed to become a total loss and consider your broader financial picture with that in mind. If you won’t be able to pay rent, afford groceries, or buy gas to get to work, if you lose out on that bet, don’t place it. If the wager will make it harder to make ends meet, don’t place it.

More than half of Americans don’t have an emergency fund in place to make sure that they’re covered in case of a natural disaster, an accident, or an unexpected hospital stay. If placing a bet would impact the cushion that you have against the whims of daily life, think twice about placing it.

At the end of the day, moderation is key in just about every facet of life, and mental health is a big part of that. Whether it’s using social media, watching television, having an extra drink on a night out, or even things like gambling, it’s crucial to make sure that you have a healthy balance in what you’re doing: devoting too much time, energy, or money to pastimes that can be fun when used occasionally can put you in a risky situation as it pertains to your mental health.