The Medicine of Happiness (Editorial Pinolia) is the recipe prescribed by Dr. Paloma Fuentes to optimize your quality of life. It does not contain magic formulas or miracle potions. Just twenty simple ingredients to strengthen your health by taking care of your brain and mind. In this interview he tells us about some of the keys.
Many psychologists say that we live in a “tyranny of happiness” that forces us to smile and be happy whatever happens, as if we have no right to mourn a loss or feel bad about some circumstance. What do you think, how can we fit the duels into your philosophy of happiness?
Of course it is, because that tyranny you mention refers to an artificial, false Happiness, I call it “Plexiglas Happiness.” Happiness is not about smiling at all costs, believing the message that we are capable of achieving our dreams if we set our minds to it, or placing table football and “organic” food in the workplace. It does not even have to do with being happy or cheerful, even if they are very pleasant emotions. The Happiness that I explain and develop in the book has to do with the energy that springs from our thoughts and our emotions, and that is what we use to navigate life. Grief provokes us wonderful emotions such as pain or sadness, which provide us with very valuable information about our lives and about ourselves. Happiness arises from a mind that is capable of identifying pain and sadness, listening to their messages and enjoying (and I say enjoy) their teachings. Not only is it not incompatible, but the book explains why developing skills such as Acceptance, Adaptation and Flexibility is very important to face tough situations, give the best response and come out of them strengthened as human beings.
Happiness depends, not so much on the occurrence of positive events in our lives, but on our way of facing everything that happens to us. Can we learn to be more optimistic? Is there a method or tool endorsed in scientific studies and that helps us achieve it?
I don’t believe in the optimism that is usually defined as seeing the glass as half full instead of half empty. I believe in the optimism that consists of the glass at its real level, but actively working to fill it when it is empty. In other words, optimism is not a way of seeing the world, but rather an attitude that leads me to do my bit to make good things happen every day. There are several studies that link optimism with a predictor of well-being in caregivers of disabled people, better performance in athletes or even better medium / long-term results in people undergoing hemodialysis (better evolution, fewer complications).And the good news is that, indeed, optimism can also be trained.In the book I present several training guidelines, but some of them are worth highlighting. In 2011, Dr. Sara Lazar from Harvard University published a study showing that meditating for 27 minutes over eight weeks causes positive structural brain changes in the orbital-frontal cortex and in the hippocampus, two areas linked to development. of optimism. Another way to train optimism is by recreating anticipatory thoughts about pleasant events, that is, consciously imagining things or moments that we like causes an instant increase in endorphins and raises the range of optimism (Anticipating A Laugh Reduces Our Stress Hormones, Study Shows. American Physiological Society. April 2008). And the last one is making gestures of kindness towards others. The latter is a study from the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine (Altruistic Social Interest Behaviors Are Associated With Better Mental Health. Carolyn Schwartz, Scd, Janice Bell Meisenhelder, Dnsc, rn, Yunsheng MA, Mph, and George Reed, Phd). It involves making simple gestures (opening a door, giving way in the elevator, greeting strangers kindly…), but carried out in a conscious way.
His Happynet program talks about 20 skills to improve mental quality. If you had to highlight two of them and briefly explain their importance, which ones would you choose?
That question is very complicated because they are all important and complementary to each other. If you want us to talk about two, the first is Concentrated Attention because it is the sustenance of the rest of the skills. When we work on attention, we develop access to our consciousness, which is the lever that enables us to adequately train the rest of the skills. And the second that I am going to mention is Appreciation because it opens the doors to a new world and amplifies our way of seeing, valuing and truly enjoying who we are and what we have around us. By training our appreciation we are capable of turning the “normal” into extraordinary, or what is the same, with Appreciation we choose to transform the habitual, the everyday, into Happiness.
Do you think that the constant search for immediate and pleasant experiences that governs our society is interfering with our ability to be happy?
I believe that this search for immediate pleasurable experiences based almost exclusively on the material is distorting our sense of Happiness. All those desirable external stimuli that constantly come to us make us confuse gratification with Happiness. On a trip I made in 2017, from Alaska to Rio de Janeiro by boat, with stops along that entire coast, I surveyed 2,679 people asking for a single word that they identified with their sense of meaning. happiness. There were people of more than thirty nationalities, and of all ages, professions … The most repeated words in the survey (overwhelmingly, almost 82%) were calm, calm and tranquility. Something very far from what we usually associate with happiness: joy, enthusiasm, illusion, pleasure or joy. Authentic happiness arises from a state of peace, harmony and inner balance. And it only depends on ourselves.