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I wrote a while back about the sweet craving-comfort food connection (in cookie monster post) and how traveling can be a trigger.

Well, here I am, traveling for the holidays.  I’m on vacation, and tempted by the wonderful sweets here in Mexico.  Flan.  All kinds of cookies and treats from the bakeries.  Churros.  Hot chocolate.  Yum. Yum. Yum. 

Why is it that my hand didn’t go out at all the fruit stands?  Hmmm… However, I did buy whole fruit–apples, tangerines and guavas– at a market — which was a bit of a walk out from the center.  Fortunately, I was staying in an apartment with a kitchen, so I could wash and cut these to eat.  Today, I’m in a new town, and no kitchen or knife, either.

This is all to say that in addition to missing home and being drawn to sweetness, there’s a convenience factor that goes with a sweet tooth on the road. 

Reminder for future travels. 

  • Bring along a plastic knife, or pack a real knife if I know I’m going to check my luggage.
  • Load up on fruit whenever I can.  It satisfies the sweet craving, before I feel the urge for flan.
  • Bring or buy dried fruit.  (Difficult for me now since I’m wearing braces, but normally a great alternative.)
  • Awareness and intention.  I can’t use the excuse that I’m on vacation to take a vacation from taking care of myself!!!

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.

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.

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.

I received a beautiful and playful gift over the holidays, a solar-powered rainbow maker. You stick it on a window, and when sun rays shine on it, little rainbows dance around the room.  It’s delightful.  (And it’s powered by the sun!  How cool is that!)

It reminds me of the colors associated with the Five Elements, a holistic way of the looking at the world.  There are seasons,  colors, emotions, smells, tastes and even times of day associated with each of the Five Elements: earth, metal, water, wood and fire. 

The colors associated with the Five Elements are yellow, white, black/dark blue, green and red.  I won’t go into all the theory of it here, but suffice it to say that we each have all  the elements in us.  In other words, from a color perspective, we each have a rainbow inside.

But often one or two colors in the rainbow are stronger than others.  So what might we learn from that?  For example, when I was a kid, navy blue was my favorite color. I was born in wintertime and was quiet and introverted.  More recently, however, I’ve been salsa dancing and playing latin music.  Coincidentally, I am much more drawn to the color red; it shows up much more in my wardrobe.  I think it reflects a greater expression of my passionate self, and red if definitely a color of passion.

How about you?  What can you learn from paying attention to colors in your life?

  • What’s the most popular color in your closet? 
  • Does your mood change depending on the color of your shirt? 
  • When you’re shopping for clothes, do you gravitate toward a particular color?
  • Is there a color you hate and would never wear? 
  • Has your favorite color changed over the years?

Celebrate the colors that are (and aren’t in your life.)  And see if you might want to bring some more balance.  For example, an all-red wardrobe could be too hot and dry.  Cool it down and introduce some moisture with blues and greens. 

Be inspired by the rainbow.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, balanced daily routine is said to be a key to long healthy life. I think about my grandfather who was very organized; for example, he had his breakfast at 8:30am every morning. I could practically set my watch to it. And he lived fully to 92.

So let’s say you agree that routine is good. But can too much of a good thing become not so good? I’ll share my friend’s experience of getting herself out of a rut.

For five years, my friend started each day with a walk around her neighborhood. It energized her. Got her off to a good start to write. (She’s a poet.) Recently, however, she noticed her aversion to her walks. She just couldn’t get going in the morning. She had walked herself into a rut. (Imagine if she had walked on a dirt path–instead of concrete–for 1800 days; there might be an actual rut in the road.)

So one day, she decided to make just one change. Instead of turning left, when she stepped out, she turned right. That was it. She walked the exact same route, but in the opposite direction. And that one difference made all the difference she needed. She was more present on her walk, because she couldn’t go on automatic pilot. She noticed things anew. She’s now back to her healthful routine. With that one simple–but profoundly effective–change, she has gotten out of a rut.

What daily routine could you change by just one facet, to give you a fresh new experience?

Some ideas (inspired by a great little book on neurobics called Keep Your Brain Alive):

  • Use your non-dominant hand when doing everyday things. For example, if you’re right-handed, use your left hand to brush your teeth, button your shirt, open the door, stir your coffee or tea…
  • Stimulate your other senses. For example, use touch, rather than sight, to pick out your clothes. Smell your lunch before you start eating; can you pick out the ingredients?
  • Change your seat. Choose a new spot at the dinner table. Or try a new seat at your next meeting. You might get an entirely new view of things.

Please share rut-releasing tips that have worked for you!

I’m feeling some anxiety about changes–real, imagined and expected–in my life now. I came across this article in the Yoga Journal, by meditation teacher Philip Moffit, where he talks about change and intention: The Dharma of Life Changes. Since intention is a key word in my own work with clients and with myself, I was curious to see what the author had to say.

I was especially drawn to these questions that Phillip Moffit proposes:

Diligently applying mindfulness allows you to answer three basic questions:

  1. What are your real motives?
  2. What are the possible effects of any change?
  3. Is the manner in which you plan to go about change skillful?”

These are seemingly simple questions, but how simple is it to “diligently apply mindfulness”? I find my mind wandering easily to worries and planning, so I remind myself of the benefits of spending a few minutes to do a self-acu mini meditation.

Whatever movement in your life that you are dealing with or working on bringing to fruition–managing your weight, improving your life balance, greater financial success, a new job, a growing family–try out these questions. Change is a part of life; it’s nice to have some guidance in how to navigate through those times.

In the last minutes of 2006, I was in a car accident. We were just about to cross the Oakland Bay Bridge to go home after a warm and lovely New Year’s Eve dinner, and the car I was driving was hit by a truck.

Fortunately, no one was injured. The man who hit us was calm and friendly, which helped calm my startled nerves, and I trust that the insurance matters will all work out alright. When the clock struck 2007, we were still on the side of the road, but had a great view of the fireworks display across the Bay.

Nevertheless, my spirit has been a bit off-kilter today, the first day of 2007. Worried about the repair requirements, wary about driving, rattled that the transition to the new year was accompanied by such a jolt. However, I remind myself of the healthy intention I set for myself yesterday, before the accident.

That is, to practice some yoga and meditation every morning, even if only for 15 minutes. I ALWAYS feel better when I do that. I know this supports all aspects of my life.

And this morning, even though I was feeling a bit tentative and sorry for myself, and my neck and shoulder were a bit uncomfortable–from the accident? from stress and worry?–I did my practice. I felt better afterward, in body and spirit, and I believe it allowed me to enjoy the visits with good friends through the day as much as I have. My morning practice also probably helped to recognize my “off-kilter” state, and just let it be, rather than getting more worried about that.

So, I invite you to consider setting a healthy intention for yourself.

  • Not a goal, which sets up a specific expectation. Here’s a familiar example: I must diet and lose x pounds by y-date.
  • But a guiding principle that helps you with what to do in every moment. It might look like this: My intention is to pay attention to when I am actually hungry, and eat food that is nutritious and delicious, enough to satisfy my hunger, and no more.

When you pay attention to the joyful or peaceful and restful moments in your life, what healthy intentions can you set?