According to a recent study that came out of the University of Bergen, skydivers are just as prone to thrill-seeking and impulsivity as compulsive gamblers.
Both make similar use of the brain’s reward system, leading to increases in dopamine. But one big difference is that skydivers, on average, are considered healthy and functioning, while compulsive gambling is often regarded as a serious behavioral disorder.
One implication researchers are drawing from this study is the idea of replacing harmful thrill-seeking with more “positive thrill-seeking.” According to Scandinavian psychologist Helga Myrseth:
“One of our major discoveries was that extreme scores for impulsiveness or thrill-seeking don’t have to be negative or linked to a diagnosis, such as gambling addiction. It may as well be connected to more wholesome leisure activities, such as extreme sports.
Compulsive gamblers may be able to get their kicks without risking health and ruin. Both gamblers and extreme sport athletes show a strong desire for intense stimulus. For skydivers this arises from the intensely compressed nature of the sport. For gamblers it can lead to increasing sums of money being put into play.”
Is it possible that other forms of harmful impulsivity, like drug abuse or eating disorders, could be substituted for more positive habits that still provide similar levels of excitement?
Forms of positive thrill-seeking
There are many relatively safe and healthy ways to get our dose of “thrill-seeking.” Some ideas I’ve come up with include:
- Extreme sports.
- Challenging yourself in something.
- An intense work out.
- Practicing safe sex.
- Trying something new.
- Watching a scary or action-packed movie.
- Listening to exciting and lively music.
- Celebrating a holiday or important event.
I’m sure the list is endless, but the point is that there are alternative ways of thrill-seeking that don’t have to include harmful activities like compulsive gambling, excessive eating, or drug abuse. And maybe by engaging in these alternatives, we can actually curb our desire for these less healthy and more risk-taking habits.
Everyone needs a little excitement in their lives, but we all need different doses. Positive thrill-seeking is a great way to invigorate our lives without needing to put ourselves in danger.
Question: What are some positive thrill-seeking suggestions that I may have missed? Feel free to leave your answers in the comment section!
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