How to Create Healthy Habits For Living With Migraine
You’ve probably heard that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. That sounds easy, right? Make a resolution to change, and three weeks later you’ll be a different, healthier person.
Well… the 21-day rule isn’t exactly accurate. One 2009 study found a wide range in the time required to make a new behavior automatic: 18 to 254 days. The average was 66 days.
But don’t get discouraged! You can develop better habits to help with migraine prevention and improve overall health. Here are some things to try. And if you mess up once or twice, that’s OK. The same study found that “missing one opportunity to perform the behaviour did not materially affect the habit formation process.”
Healthy Habits To Help Prevent Migraine
Are you a little tired of people telling you “eat this, not that”? It can be really tough to stick to a strict, trigger-free migraine diet 100% of the time. Instead, consider aiming for balanced meals at regular times every day. Skipping meals can trigger migraine attacks.[i]
When you’re starting a new exercise habit, it’s tempting to go hard right away. Instead, start small and take it slow. Regular physical activity can benefit people with migraine, but strenuous exercise and rapid head movements can also trigger migraine attacks. The best exercises for migraine include walking, jogging, yoga and tai chi, various studies suggest. Try a few and see what works best for you.
We know that stress — as well as the letdown after a period of intense stress — can be a powerful migraine trigger. But stress is complicated, with many causes, and so it’s hard to prevent. You can, however, develop healthy habits for responding to stress! Try adding migraine relaxation techniques to your daily routine.
How to Create New Habits for Migraine Prevention
“Stack” your new habit on an existing one. Adopting a new habit is easier if you connect it with something else you already do automatically. If your goal is to drink more water, have a glass while you’re making coffee in the morning. If you’re trying to begin a meditation practice, add it to your nighttime routine.
Reduce the friction. Author Roger Dooley calls friction "the mortal enemy of motivation." In the context of creating habits, friction means anything that impedes you from taking the action; the difficulty, whether real or perceived.[ii]
How can you reduce the friction for your desired behavior change? If you want to exercise every morning, lay out your workout clothes and shoes the night before. If your goal is using your CEFALY DUAL’s PREVENT treatment daily, make sure the device is charged and you have a supply of fresh electrodes.
Have a plan for overcoming obstacles. The strategy of setting “implementation intentions,” as NYU professor Peter Gollwitzer calls them, involves making if-then statements for dealing with challenges. Let’s say you want to go to bed at 9 p.m. each night, but you often stay up late scrolling on your phone. Set an intention: “If I’m tempted to pick up the phone after 9, then I’ll leave it on the kitchen counter downstairs so it’s out of reach.”
Keep visualizing the end goal. If you have migraine, your goal might be a simple one: Fewer migraine days. Fewer canceled commitments. Just feeling better. When you feel your willpower waver, focus on that goal.
CEFALY wants to support you on your migraine journey. By providing clinically proven, drug-free migraine pain relief and prevention, CEFALY can be a valuable part of your migraine treatment regimen. Learn more and try CEFALY risk-free for 60 days.
Reviewed by: Deena E. Kuruvilla, MD, a board-certified neurologist and the director of the Westport Headache Institute, where she employs a holistic biopsychosocial approach to diagnosis and treatment. She held clinical appointments at the Yale University School of Medicine prior to starting her own practice and has authored many articles, book chapters, and research publications.