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HeadWay Issue #219 - Achieve more with Gradualism
January 21, 2023

In this issue:

Achieve More with Gradualism

Say what?! Written Goals

Achieve More with Gradualism

The Collins Dictionary defines gradualism as "the policy of seeking to change something or achieve a goal gradually rather than quickly or violently, esp in politics".

Don't worry, we won't be talking about politics today. Instead, we're going to talk about the benefits and limitations of "gradualism" when it comes to migraine and headache treatment.

Migraine brains are often resistant to sudden changes. A change in schedule - staying up late or sleeping in. A change in diet. A day of unusual exertion.

At this time of year, many of us have made and broken ambitious resolutions. As a meme I saw today said, "Missed a day at the gym. That's 7 years in a row now."

Instead of making drastic changes, "gradualism" invokes the power of small but steady changes. One push-up isn't much, but what if, every two days, you added one more? In 6 months you'd be at 91 push-ups. Impressive! Sounds like a superpower to me!

Limitations: Small changes allow you to reach big health goals without triggering those migraine attacks. Sounds great, but you need to be aware of some limitations.

The biggest one, in my opinion, is lack of measurement. If progress is difficult or inconvenient to measure, you've got a recipe for failure. For example,"I'm cutting back on sugar" is vague and destined for failure. How will you measure how much less you're really eating? Do you replace that extra dessert with a small snack without realizing it? Exactly how much are you cutting back?

That's why, when it comes to certain diet goals, I'm actually in favour of the 100% approach, even if it's temporary. No added sugar/artificial sweeteners or refined flours for 6 months is often more obtainable than subjectively and gradually cutting back. Plus, after 2-3 months (or less) you'll see the benefits more clearly.

The other challenge is your commitment to progress. Gradually improving for a couple of weeks, and then going backwards, and then trying again, and then not bothering, and you've just wasted your time.

Recipe for success: So if you're going to use gradualism to improve your health, here's what to put in the original mix:
  1. Be sure you have a convenient way to measure your progress, as precisely as possible.
  2. Do this in an area that you're committed to improving.
  3. Consider sharing your progress with one or more specific people.
  4. Make it fun - reward yourself for reaching certain milestones.
In what areas might you apply gradualism?
  • Exercise/movement is a classic, because it's so incredibly beneficial for headache/migraine patients, but so often can trigger more problems. But you can start with small, low-cost, at home (or at work) goals that gradually increase (even something as simple as the push-up example).
  • Diet - as long as you can make it specific and measurable, go for it. This especially works for specific habits (such as those who regularly drink so many sugary drinks a week).
  • Other habits that are easily measurable, such as hours of sleep, smoking, and hours of screen entertainment.
  • Education - taking a little bit of time each day or week to learn about your health can add up over time!
  • Treatment - new migraine patients are tempted to look for quick solutions, instead of wholistic long-term improvements. Migraine treatment can take time. But make sure you're still progressing. In other words, work with your doctor/specialists to keep track of improvements, new symptoms, and treatment options over time.
Applying gradualism to your health takes a little bit of planning and organization, but it can pay off in big ways over the next year. How could you gradually improve your health, and fight back against migraine and headache in your own life this year?

Say what?! Written Goals

Usually this section features a definition. But this month we're looking at a scientific study related to goal setting.

A 2015 study from the Dominican University of California investigated how writing down your goals contributes to achieving them. The results were obvious! If you want to reach your goals:
  • Write them down.
  • Send a weekly report to a friend.
That's it! For more on the study, see this press release: Study focuses on strategies for achieving goals, resolutions

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