Your Life Could Use “Addition by Subtraction”

Your Life Could Use "Addition by Subtraction"

Addition by subtraction. What does that mean? For Shola, founder of the Positivity Solution it could mean walking away from a toxic relationship. You subtract that person and your life immediately has added benefits. For Dr. Roxanne B. Sukol, who blogs at Your Health is on Your Plate, addition by subtraction means removing certain foods from your diet to improve your overall health. It’s a great concept that can be applied to many elements in our lives. Let’s explore a few examples.

1. Paints. Everyone has cracked open a can of paint to redo a wall or brighten up furniture. The walls of homes built before 1978 were often covered in lead-based paints. Public health departments are still offering lead testing for people living in these older buildings and in many states if lead paint is found in the home of a child under the age of six, the health department covers the rehab of the building.

Addition by subtraction when purchasing paints means selecting those with no VOCs or volatile organic compounds. These solvents frequently added to paint are released during the drying process often causing acute symptoms like headaches and dizziness. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that some VOCs are suspected carcinogens.

Currently the federal government caps the VOC content in paint at 250 grams per liter (g/l) for flat paint and 380 g/l for low luster and semigloss. But you can find paints made by manufacturers using even more stringent limits—50 g/l for all finishes—set by California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District. These paints include: Benjamin Moore Aura, True Value Easy Care, and Glidden Evermore.

Harley Farms recently began offering milk paint which has no VOCs and is all natural as you can see from the ingredients: calcium carbonate, flax seed oil, water, milk protein (casein), goat milk soap, pigment and salt. The producers state it is gentle on the environment and creates a suede-like finish. If you drip some on your hands, it’s so non-caustic you could lick it right off and there’s no need for gloves or a mask. Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan is another good choice, very low in VOC’s, and considered a “kind” paint with virtually no odor.

2. Speaking of paint, one of the main things we consider when purchasing a car is its color—we buy a color we like. But using the addition by subtraction concept, we might need to consider safety before good looks. Peter Bohr in his piece Hue and Me researched the safety of autos in regards to color.

Though there have been few scientific studies regarding the issue, one done in 2002 in Spain found that light-colored cars had the edge on not being hit by another car and black cars were the most likely to be involved in an accident. A 2007 study from a university in Australia revealed that white cars had the lowest crash risk, while cars with colors that were low on the visibility index: black, blue, gray, green, red and silver were linked to a higher risk of accidents. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that white may be most visible at night, but not against a snow covered backdrop. And though red cars do stand out during the day, at night they appear black to other drivers.

3. Finally addition by subtraction can definitely apply to our use of medications and subsequently how we dispose of them. In her piece, “Stop! Don’t Flush” Rita Colorito reminds consumers NOT to dispose of unused or outdated medications by flushing them down a toilet or sink. This past practice has allowed drugs to make their way into our drinking water as well as polluting lakes and streams where fish live and wildlife drink. Though what we flush passes through a water treatment plant, most plants are not equipped to clean the water of all pharmaceuticals and even personal care products. Mae Wu, who works at the National Resources Defense Council states that even though the levels in our water are low scientists don’t know what impact they are having on our health. Researchers found oxazepam, an anti-anxiety drug, threatening fish populations as it disturbs their breeding habits. Antibiotics and anti-diabetic drugs have been found in Lake Michigan, a source of water for more than 10 million people. If you can, practice addition by subtraction by decreasing the number of drugs that you take. Remember, antibiotics do not help the common cold as that’s a virus. Plan to contact your local pharmacy concerning how to dispose of unused drugs. You will add to the health of our planet by being smart about the disposal of any medication.

Dr. Sukol stresses the positives of using addition by subtraction: “It’s about discovering that limiting a child’s choices translates into greater contentment. It might seem paradoxical at first, but it’s not. Having too many choices makes things more, not less, stressful…like the time I heard my son’s friend explain how having to put on a uniform every day made getting ready in the morning easier. It’s about taking something away, and discovering that you end up with more. You might even say that you end up the better for it. It’s about eating an apple instead of a cookie and finding that it filled you up and statisfied you with the crunch and the sweetness and the peanut butter you put on it.”

Can you find new ways to practice addition by subtraction?  PLEASE SHARE.

Thanks to Google Image

Your Life Could Use "Addition by Subtraction"

Chalk paint wall and chest by Annie Sloan

4 thoughts on “Your Life Could Use “Addition by Subtraction”

  1. Beth perhaps in a future post[s] you might discuss other forms of subtraction such as the rather common obsessions with various kinds of responsibilities which really don’t apply or can be accepted in greater moderation. Seems to me many people need to put aside activities which get in the way of quiet contemplation. Oh and by the way I’ll never drive comfortably in our bright red car again – alas we thought it was cute!

    • I totally agree that there needs to be a major movement in life: put aside activities that are constantly thinking for you and use your brain to read or contempt your decisions and your life. That would be true subtraction. MY CAR IS RED TOO! And your car is definitely cute. And driving comfortably is just being a careful driver–which you are. Beth

  2. Perfect timing…… Elissa & Matt are just painting( actually Matt is) the nursery.
    I asked them about The paint choice….. No Latex!!!! I looked up to see what was the safest paint to use. Carefully asked them about their paint choice, and they said they were aware of the harmfull fumes in paint! Assured me doors are closed, and windows are open, and Elissa is not in there, for now!
    So I will be passing this on to them. They are contemplating on buying a new SUV before the baby comes! Elissa drives a Black Honda….. Hopefully they look at a White car after they read this!
    Thanks, Beth !
    GG-Gay

    • I am so delighted that this post helped. And I love how you are approaching the issues with them. Go GG!!

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