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You may wonder why I’m talking about paints in this blog, but since it’s dedicated to Everyday Wellness, and healthy and sustainable living, I think you’ll find this post is on-topic. Read on!

“Your breath is your friend.”

My clients and students hear this from me…often. I encourage them to pay attention to their breath, and make the intention of taking deep breaths as they practice self-acupressure or spend a few minutes to do an acupressure mini-meditation.

However, if the air you’re breathing is unhealthy, your breath is not your friend. That’s what I found a few days ago while helping my parents repaint their small apartment. A few hours after painting the ceiling, the paint smell started to get to me and I was starting to feel bad; I was worried about not being able to sleep in the apartment. Because the apartment is high up and it was windy, it wasn’t an option to sleep with the window open. We worked out that I could sleep in the bedroom that hadn’t been painted; fortunately, I felt fine in the morning.

The good news is that the day before, I also had the first-hand experience of a healthier paint option: a low odor, low VOC paint. GreenHomeGuide.com explains why this is healthier:

Levels of many common organic pollutants are two to five times higher indoors than they are outside, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Most of these pollutants are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from paints, finishes, and other materials. VOCs can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches; nausea; and perhaps even cancer. Given all that, it makes sense to limit exposure by choosing low- or no-VOC paints—especially in the bedroom, where we spend about one-third of each day.

So, the day before we painted the ceiling with “regular” paint, we used Benjamin Moore’s Eco Spec low odor, low VOC paint for the walls. I’m a novice painter, so I can’t compare to other paints, but it was easy to apply two coats with a roller. The color was Simply White. (Unfortunately, the Eco Spec paint we wanted for the ceiling wasn’t available.)

That day and night, I barely noticed any odor and felt no discomfort, and slept in the room that had been painted. It really felt like a “healthy” option, especially for such a small space.

Here’s to beautiful living spaces that are also healthy, long-term.

Ah, Spring Time. A time of new beginnings and of renewal.  

Movement is a theme of Spring and its associated Wood Element, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine.

redwoodImagine a sapling sending roots into the earth as it starts its journey of growth into a majestic redwood, or a grand leafy oak tree.  Movement.  Growth. Twisting and turning to keep moving toward the sun. 

Planning and vision–of the eyes and of the mind–are also woody qualities.  The emotions associated with this Element are frustration and anger.  This happens when things don’t go the way you planned; the way you envisioned.  How can you grow around the obstacle?  Find your way through a block?

It’s a time to dance and flex those joints.  Wear something green .  Try something new.

  • What is new for you this spring? 
  • What can be refreshed with a renewed perspective? 

A month ago, I talked with a man in my building who complained about many months of feeling poorly. A couple of hours after eating, he would get a stomache and then a headache. It didn’t matter what he ate. This would always happen.

I was not surprised to hear that he got both a stomache AND a headache, because in Traditional Chinese Medicine, issues with digestion and headaches are connected. I told this man that I practice acupressure and showed him the HOKU acupressure point, which is on the Large Intestine meridian. He said he felt immediately relaxation and a decrease in his headache.

Yesterday, I ran into him again and he looked great. Apparently a Chinese herbalist had turned him onto Po Chai Pills, which I just researched and learned is an herbal blend in small pill size that address symptoms of indigestion, diarrhea, vomiting… While my neighbor’s pills were the “original” brand from Hong Kong, it seems that po chai pill may be a generally used name for herbal supplement remedies for stomachaches.

His stomachache swent away, and so did his headaches. He carries a vial of Po Chai in his shirt pocket.

So, next time you have a headache, pay attention and see if your stomach is upset. Did you eat something unusual? Or does a regular headache correlate to a regular digestive discomfort?

I’m not trained in herbs, so I encourage you to check with a trained practitioner, if you are considering adding them to your own Healthy Intentions Toolkit.

Warning: Do not use this point on pregnant women.


Name: Hoku or Joining of the Valleys (Large Intestine 4)LI4 point

Location: On the top of the hand, on the web where the thumb and the index finger meet. (See the red dot on the hand in the photo.)LI4 demo1
To hold: Squeeze the point by putting your thumb on the point, and your index finger on the palm side of your hand. Make small circular motions with your thumb until you feel the point; it is tender on many people.LI4 demo2Make sure that the hand that is holding the point is relaxed. The demo photo above shows you how to hold the point, but the hands are a little tense; the second photo, on the right, shows you the hands relaxed, which is how you want to do it.

Hold for 10 or 15 seconds initially, until you figure out what works for you. You can hold for a few minutes, but make sure that the holding hand does not get tense or tired out. Release gently if you feel any acute pain.

This is a wonderful point. It is effective for relieving so many discomforts, including headaches, constipation, insomnia, stress, shoulder and neck tension.

You are encouraged you to seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.

Spring is coming.  You feel like doing something new, like learning some acupressure, right? 

Well, there are only 365 “official” points…

acupressure’s potent pointsFortunately, Michael Gach’s excellent book, Acupressure’s Potent Points: A Guide to Self-Care for Common Ailments, focuses on a handful of points that are especially effective.   (By the way, Michael is the founder of the Acupressure Institute–where I have studied–in Berkeley, California.)

I always recommend this book to my students as a useful reference book to review information that we cover in classes, and to learn self-acupressure techniques for other discomforts.

The book includes an introduction to acupressure–its history and how it works–then is followed by 42 chapters that each cover common ailments, including allergies, constipation, insomnia, and sinus problems.  Each chapter includes:

  • real-life stories from Michael Gach about success with acupressure in addressing the ailment
  • photos, charts and descriptions of each point and its effectiveness
  • step-by-step exercise instructions

A couple of weeks ago I was in New York City and went to see the National Design Triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. The former home of Andrew Carnegie (actually a mansion that’s worth the visit) was full of cool design items and ideas. I loved learning about sustainability-minded products/projects from Christopher Douglas (collapsible table) and Natalie Jeremijenko (feral robotic dog project).

Most interesting from a “coping with pain” perspective was the work on a 3D virtual reality “game” to help burn patients cope better with their extremely painful treatments. This work by Hunter Hoffman and his University of Washington colleagues lures patients into a virtual environment. Hoffman says:

“Pain requires conscious attention, so by taking the user’s attention away from the pain…there is less attention available for the person to process the pain signals. The more the patient feels like he or she is in SnowWorld, the greater the pain reduction.”

Hopefully, most of us will not have to deal with such deep pain, but we can consider how applying this principle of deflecting attention might help with the headache or back ache.

What mental image/visualization can help you deal with discomfort? Think about colors and cues from nature that will help. It’s no coincidence that the “coolness” of an icy environment and animals and people associated with a snowy world was created for burn victims.

For example, for a headache where so much attention is at the top of you body, in your head, a visualization like this might help cool and diffuse the tension down:

  • Imagine standing in a cool green forest, surrounded by tall majestic trees that are firmly rooted in the ground; then imagine you are the tree, with your feet firmly in the ground.

There are many people who are far more skilled in guided imagery and visualization than I. I will research some good sources, and welcome recommendations. In the meantime, try it out yourself. One way to start is to pull out some old photos or search online for pictures of places that make you feel good.  Look at them, then close your eyes and imagine them.  Practice conjuring up those images.

Boy, was I thankful for having learned to be a better breather when I was under the dentist’s drill, the other day.  I felt some pain, but mostly fear and anxiety about this new experience of getting a filling.

Whenever I teach a class on acupressure,  I tell my students, “Your breath is your friend.”  So when you hold a point, take a few deep breaths.  Even if you’re not holding a point, take a few deep breaths.  Deep breaths help with relaxation.

And what I learned on the dentist’s chair is that I was able to access my calming breath, because I had done it before, in many ways.  Practicing acupressure points; giving wellness sessions; receiving bodywork; meditating; in my yoga practice.  So, hooray for all that attention to breath.