Happiness and Abs

To lead a happy life, first, you need a six-pack — An understanding of how dopamine works.

Kenny Rivaldi
3 min readJan 23, 2023
Picture by Kasten Winege on Unsplash

A few months ago, one of my friends told me that he had just broken up with his girlfriend. He was feeling intense emotions and said, “At some point, I was thinking about ending my life.” He could have been joking, but I couldn’t be sure. So, I said to him in the least cruel way possible, “Yeah, no wonder she left you. You’re currently overweight and I believe you need to lose some weight and get some six-packs. Keep me updated about your journey.” I learned the hard way that when you’re at the lowest point in your life, you can turn that pain into additional energy.

He agreed with me because I knew he would do anything to get her back, but that wasn’t my point. I’m sure you’ve probably heard of dopamine, and if you haven’t, it’s one of the hormones in our body that regulates the way we feel. In other words, it can make you feel great or feel terrible at the same time.

There is something called the dopamine baseline, which is essentially a line that indicates if you can raise your dopamine level above it, you’ll feel great and happy, and if your dopamine level is below it, you’ll certainly feel sad.

Picture from Modern Mind Masters

You might be wondering, “So Kenny, if I feel sad, I could always raise my dopamine level to be happy?” The answer is yes and no. In the beginning, I thought that when I increased my dopamine level, once it hit the peak, it would return to the baseline level. But it turns out that it drops below the baseline.

This is where it gets tricky and interesting at the same time.
So what are the activities that can boost our dopamine levels? Essentially, anything that’s fun, like watching Netflix, listening to music, walking in nature, or anything that you love.

But what if I could reverse-engineer it? What if instead of doing fun things, I choose pain deliberately, making my dopamine levels drop below the baseline? Will it eventually go up above the baseline? The answer is yes.

Now you’re beginning to understand my real plan for my friend. Instead of encouraging him to do fun things, which would eventually drop his dopamine level, I encouraged him to do the hard stuff. And in the long term, it’s always a win.

I didn’t tell him that by having a great body, he could get his ex back. But I know that by the time he got those abs popping up, his health would improve and so would his confidence. And if you have those two things, you can pretty much handle all the storms in your life.

So whenever you feel that your life is not meaningful, I highly encourage you to do the hard stuff, do something that challenges you. It’s probably not always getting a great body, it could be anything. But in the end, the benefits of having a healthy body outweigh the bad.