The 4-Step Guide to Creating Change for Migraine

Exploring Solutions | 6 Min. Read
Author: Ctrl M Health Migraine Team
Reviewed by: Ctrl M Health Medical Directors


  • Lifestyle changes can reduce migraine symptoms by up to 50%. But to create those lasting, consistent habits, it’s important to first prepare your body and mind for change. 
  • Prepare for your health behavior change by figuring out your level of readiness.
  • Visualize your optimal self with an ideal health visualization.
  • Create your action plan by setting a reach goal.
  • Monitor your progress by tracking your habits.

Full Article

Change is hard. It can be daunting to start a new habit. Even tougher is sticking with new habits for the long term — and not for lack of “willpower,” but because the brain itself resists change. That goes double when you have migraine, since migraine’s unpredictable nature creates obstacles and setbacks, making it easy to feel stuck in place. So although research shows that lifestyle changes can reduce migraine symptoms by up to 50%, it can be a struggle to understand how to begin.

We’ve done the hard work for you. The Ctrl M Health app lays out a comprehensive program that includes four different strategies for successfully creating change, all based in psychological research, so you can adopt healthy habits to improve your migraine.

#1: Get clarity through self-discovery

Your path to making lasting changes for migraine starts with self-discovery. Ask yourself this deceptively simple question: How ready are you to make change? Understanding your level of readiness can actually mean the difference between achieving and not achieving your goals.

The different levels of readiness are called the stages of change. Your stage depends upon how confident you are that you have the tools to make the change, and how important the potential outcomes are to your quality of life. There is no “right” place to be. Rather, it’s about knowing where you are right now and planning for what you need to get to the next step toward reducing migraine.

Try our “Preparing for Health Behavior Change” activity:

    • Think about one lifestyle change you’re considering for greater migraine health.
    • In the activity, read the article about the different Stages of Change.
    • Identify your stage relating to the lifestyle change you want to make.

Four side-by-side images of a smartphone, with the purple and black screen showing the steps to find the Preparing for Health Behavior Change activity.

After completing the Preparing for Health Behavior Change activity, take time to reflect on your next step. Which of these statements describe your stage of change?:

    • “I’m not ready to make lifestyle changes, or don’t know how they would benefit me.”
        • You’re in the pre-contemplation phase. We suggest taking time to learn about migraine solutions in our Knowledge Portal until you feel more ready.
    • “I see the benefits of change but am not ready or don’t know how to take action.”
        • You’re in the contemplation phase. Jump down below to #2: Get Visual.
    • “I’ve decided to take action and have started preparing my plan.”
        • You’re in the preparation phase. Jump down below to #3: Get Focused.
    • “I’ve already started incorporating lifestyle changes.”
        • You’re in the action phase. Jump down below to #4: Get in the Habit.

Get clarity with the “Preparing for Health Behavior Change” activity.

#2: Get Visual

When you know the benefits of a change but aren’t yet ready to start — or don’t know how — you’re in the contemplation phase. Your next step for creating change is to reflect on your motivations.

That’s because the mind has ways of filling us with doubts and negative self-talk that can convince us our efforts aren’t worth it. That might lead us to give up before we’ve begun. Taking a moment to think about what’s driving your desire for change will help you define and work toward your goals for improving your headache and migraine. Visualization is a powerful tool in this regard, because it helps the mind see what’s possible without the barrier of self-limiting beliefs.

Try our “Ideal Health Visualization” activity:

    • Listen to our guided audio to help your mind envision your optimal health.
    • The audio will walk you through imagining, with great specificity, how you will look and feel having made the change you want. What does it allow you to do? How is your life different?
    • This exercise may take practice, since your mind is accustomed to limiting itself with barriers, so try to listen at least 2 or 3 times over the course of a week.

Four side-by-side images of a smartphone, with the purple and black screen showing the steps to find the Ideal Health Visualization activity.

Get visual with the “Ideal Health Visualization” activity.

#3 Get Focused

When you feel ready enough for change that you’re getting your action plan ready, you’re in the preparation phase, and it’s time to set out your realistic goals.

Note our use of the word “realistic.” When setting goals for your health with headache and migraine, it’s important to set yourself up for success. That requires setting a migraine health goal just outside your comfort zone — while not aiming so high that you might never get there.

Try our “Set a Reach Goal” activity:

    • Pick one area of your migraine health you are focused on right now.
    • Write down a “reach goal”: slightly outside your comfort zone, but not so lofty that you hit the “panic zone.”
    • Check to make sure it’s also a SMART goal: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound.
    • Write down the related action steps you will take to achieve your goal.
    • Write down your barriers and how you might work through them.
    • Write down ways you will hold yourself accountable.
    • Write down ways you will celebrate your successes each step of the way.

Four side-by-side images of a smartphone, with the purple and black screen showing the steps to find the Set a Reach Goal activity.

Get focused with the “Set a Reach Goal” activity.

#4 Get in the Habit

If you’ve already started making lifestyle changes for migraine, congratulations on reaching the action phase! Now it’s time to set yourself up for success in sticking with your new healthy habit.

Having a big, long-term goal can feel overwhelming, and if you try to tackle too much at once, it lessens your chances of sustaining a new habit. Rather, it helps to break your long-term goal into bite-sized chunks, then tackle one goal at a time. Monitoring your progress as you do so, in measurable ways, is an important means of seeing how far you’ve come, knowing where you are on the road map of change, and keeping you moving toward the next step.

Try our “Habit Tracker” activity:

    • Write down your larger goal, and each of the specific steps you are taking to get there.
    • Choose a behavior to begin incorporating.
    • Track your new habit on a chart.
    • At the end of each week, reflect on how many days you performed the habit and rate how automatic the behavior feels to you.
    • Give yourself at least three weeks to focus on this one behavior. The goal is for the behavior to feel so automatic that you don’t even need to think about it.

Four side-by-side images of a smartphone, with the purple and black screen showing the steps to find the Habit Tracker activity.

Get in the habit with the “Habit Tracker” activity.

Choose Your Next Step to Improve Your Migraine

You have the power to prevent migraine attacks, starting with preparing your mind and body for change. The personalized plan within your Ctrl M Health app is ready to help. You’ve got this!

    1. Get clarity with the “Preparing for Health Behavior Change” activity.
    2. Get visual with the “Ideal Health Visualization” activity.
    3. Get focused with the “Set a Reach Goal” activity.
    4. Get in the habit with the “Habit Tracker” activity.

Good luck! We’ll be with you every step of the way.

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© 2020 Ctrl M Health. All rights reserved.

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