Doctor Mario Alonso Puig, member of the Harvard University Medical School and one of the most influential disseminators of human conduct, behavior patterns and development, recently participated in the Premium Atlantic Forum of the DIARIO DE AVISOS Foundation. Author of a dozen books on human intelligence, training the body, mind and positive psychology, best sellers such as Reinvent Yourself, Now Me, Living is an urgent matter or Take a breath!, He has the endorsement of more than 20 years teaching courses, conferences and working with companies to enhance skills such as leadership, teamwork, change management, health and well-being and happiness.
-Current news paints a picture that is difficult to digest. How should we manage the risks and, above all, the feeling that something catastrophic could happen to us?
“In order for us to experience a transformation of our world, we need an expansion in the level of consciousness, to then start speaking and taking responsibility. If we do not have the courage and courage to discover the truth about ourselves, even if it hurts, there is nothing to do. But without the intention of judging, accusing or blaming, simply to know in depth. Once the level of awareness is increased, we have to talk, have conversations about the problems, and then we already take responsibility for something to be done about it, and that leads to new actions that will end up changing the structures. We cannot change the global structure if we are not even having authentic conversations. Sometimes we have more lucidity and we don’t need to hit that bottom, but if we don’t have that early lucidity we will need to hit a very deep bottom to say that this can’t go on like this. We must keep changing the polarity, something that is not possible if we only look at what cannot be done, at all the bad things in the world, instead of focusing on what can be done and what that can be improved.”
Are we more aware today that we need help?
“I have been talking about these issues for about 30 years. At the beginning, the companies asked me to talk about leadership, team management, high performance, creativity… And I tried to sneak in the subject of people’s well-being, but I did not get much receptivity. Today, 95% of what companies ask me is to talk about how to improve the well-being of their people. The difference now is an expansion of the level of consciousness. They have realized that people are suffering. We are in the phase of the burned worker, at a level that already affects the income statement. I would like it to be done out of love for the human being, but what matters is that it be done. Once the level of consciousness is expanded, responsibility is taken. At a conference I talked about chronic stress and an engineer came up to me and said: ‘I can’t take it anymore’. Before the pandemic, 25% of the Spanish population used anxiolytics and antidepressants, and nobody talked about it. It has taken an intensification of the problem to realize its magnitude. There is already a responsibility and we think about doing something. So, the motivation exists, something moves you and you have the confidence that you can do something. You have to start with small steps, in this case, with a conversation to talk about stress, and that leads to new actions. The world has evolved in an extraordinary way from a scientific and technical point of view, what is questionable is whether we have evolved from a human point of view. Our life expectancy is double what it was at the beginning of the 20th century, but I see people just as overwhelmed. We don’t have time for anything. Therefore, we must become aware and be able to approach a dimension of our truth that is not pleasant”.
-Faced with the hectic pace of life, with stress the order of the day, you insist on trying to silence noises, which act as a barrier to happiness. How do we do it?
“It is extremely important to separate ourselves from that noise (thoughts) to improve our physical, mental and emotional health and our relationships. We have a dimension of the mind that makes tremendous noise and this can last for years and years. We know that this noise is very harmful to health, produces a constant release of cortisol and increases oxidative stress. This generates the release of substances that attack the molecules and harm us, producing mutations or deterioration. It is known that this constant conversation in a stressed person, by releasing adrenaline in the digestive tract, impairs the functioning of their bacteria, favoring a leaky intestine, toxic substances entering and generating the so-called chronic low-grade inflammation, which, among other effects, produces brain inflammation that causes anxiety or depression, and so on. Furthermore, at the level of the neural network, when we go to the past it is not to remember wonderful moments, but rather unfortunate or bitter events. And when we go to the future, few people are able to see it exciting. These negative thoughts are also part of that mental noise, and anxiety and depression come from there. If we want to be better, we must stop and open that space between thoughts. 80% of consultations with doctors for real illnesses are caused by emotional dysfunction: envy, jealousy, fear, anxiety, anguish, a feeling of impotence, hopelessness… If in a conversation with one or several people slip one of those thoughts, I have to stop it so that it does not drag me, because I would no longer be aware of the conversation. Attention must be redirected decisively and with discipline. When you replace thought with consciousness and observation you are on another level, you receive much more information. Hence the practice of mindfulness (full awareness). Cardiologist Herbert Benson read and heard that Buddhist monks had a system to calm the mind and went with them to learn this technique and implant it in their patients. He demonstrated that the practice of silence prior to cardiac surgery caused the incidence of postoperative arrhythmias to decrease after the operation. He began to be interested in what was happening in the brain and the positive effects of meditation, he taught terminally ill patients to work on stillness, who began to improve. With this silence we pay more attention, we feel better, it orders our head and we can solve problems. Closing your eyes for 10 minutes makes you feel better. You have to create the habit of stillness, a space of silence, of recovery”.
-Do people who face a serious illness have more options to get ahead if they have a favorable predisposition?
“Yes, without a doubt. I can guarantee it as many times as necessary. Scientist Candace Pert demonstrated that we have receptors on every cell in the body for different types of hormones. Cortisol, the fear hormone, when coupled to a lymphocyte expert in attacking viruses and tumors, causes it to lose its strength, but if you are hopeful and confident, you lower your cortisol levels and raise those of other hormones, such as serotonin or dopamine, and that produces a different effect on the functioning of the immune system. Second, the intestinal microbiota is in constant contact with the immune system. 80% of the body’s defenses are in the intestine wall. When a person falls into a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, a distress occurs that damages the microbiota. Having the desire to live, having confidence and feeling supported is essential, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which favors these cells to be more aggressive against tumors. It will not be the only determining factor, but it does not mean that it is not a factor that counts, and a lot”.
-In your book ‘Reinvent yourself’ you allude to the greatness that we all carry internally and maintain that most human beings die with that music inside, that they never heard it sound. How to discover that hidden power?
“When we see an amethyst, that precious purple crystal, we observe that its surface is very ugly, but when that appearance is broken, the geode appears, that kind of cave full of wonderful crystals. We all have this double condition: one that is not pleasing to the senses and another that escapes the senses. We are trapped by our senses, we believe that the world we see is the only thing there is, but we must see our geode with the eyes of faith. Faith is not an act of understanding, it is a decision of the will: to bet on the good that is in me and in others. We must recognize that our appearance, mistakes and failures are real. We are so trapped in the sensory world that we despise the suprasensory, but we know that there are people in our lives who have transformed us, who have not judged us, with whom we have felt immensely loved. The only thing that can truly heal is the ability to love, and that is precisely what almost no one is willing to give. It is very easy to love the person who is caring, respectful, kind, and it is much more challenging to do so with a person who is not. Sartre said that ‘freedom is what you do with what they have done to you’. So what have we received and what have we given? When you give something different from what you receive, there is a transformation.
– Is there a collective consciousness in humans, something that connects us and influences like a butterfly effect?
“This invites you to leave the physical plane and enter the metaphysical. When we are on the metaphysical plane, Newtonian physics is of no use to us and only quantum physics is useful to us, which is the metaphysical plane of physics. In that metaphysical plane we are not as individuals, but we are a whole. If on the physical plane what happens to me does not impact the rest, if we include the metaphysical as part of reality, we realize that your thoughts, what you radiate or what you project, are having an impact on others . One of the people who sensed it was the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, who spoke of the collective unconscious and the connection of minds. I have practiced the Metta meditation on love and I know that thinking and wanting the good for some people can have an impact, regardless of the distance they are from. From a mind as rational, materialistic, limited and limiting as the one that operates on a day-to-day basis, this is absurd, but when one levels up and connects with quantum physics, you wonder: what if it were true? This supposes an enormous responsibility, because it means that your negative and destructive thoughts not only harm you, but also harm the rest of humanity. And on the contrary: your constructive and positive thoughts, without denying difficult realities, are not only good for you, they are good for others”.
Does this also have to do with the power of prayer?
“You have to be very respectful of what each person has experienced. There are those who, when faced with the word prayer or religion, feel their spirits expand and others who get rashes. Prayer, as I understand it, is the connection with an infinitely wise and kind universe that is willing to see you happy, and not that you mess up to put on a little red mark and remind you of it a million times. I have found myself in very complicated situations where I have given up, in which I did not know where to get out. So I asked for help and out of nowhere an idea came to me, a peace that has made me connect at unimaginable levels. I don’t want to sell anything to anyone, but what I don’t want to do is not share it for fear of what they will say. A reflection of Goethe says that the moment someone truly commits, providence does too. Prayer is an opening to the universe, it does not have to go through being a ready-made formula”.
-We live in a society that labels and argues. To what extent does that condition our relationships?
“In times like today, where we face so many challenges, we need people who unite us, not tear us apart. We are all going to find in each other things that we don’t like, but why don’t we focus on what we do like, on the favorable things, on what connects us. Let’s use corporate intelligence. Cooperation is the great solution, because everything that encourages rivalry will not get us anywhere.