Meet Your Happy Chemicals (Part 2/5) — Dopamine

This is Part 2 of my series on the HAPPY CHEMICALS inside our brains.  For Part 1, click here.

The first happy chemical I’m going to look at is Dopamine.  Dopamine is the chemical that our brain produces when we’re about to accomplish something.  We don’t get Dopamine AFTER we’ve accomplished something – we get it RIGHT BEFORE.

So for example, say your asshole boss hands you a really annoying work project.  You slog through the BS, massaging your temples to avoid getting a migraine.  Then, just as you’re about to finish, you get a jolt of energy.

You’re almost done!  Just a few more clicks…


That jolt of energy is Dopamine.

Your brain has evolved over time to give you that jolt, so you actually accomplish your goals and don’t end up like this…


Dopamine is what pushes us to finish the task at hand and complete our goals.  It’s NOT that feeling of accomplishment you get after you’ve completed something.  That’s just a feeling – an emotion.  Dopamine is a chemical jolt dolled out by your brain with the express purpose of getting you to reach the finish line.

There are plenty of ways to boost your Dopamine levels on a regular basis.  One way is to constantly make small lists – like 3 or 4 things you need to do, then start checking those things off.  For example, say you set up 3 small tasks for yourself – picking up dry cleaning, emailing your friend back, and Tindering while taking a dump.


Those are small, easy tasks.  But if you do them thoughtlessly you might miss out on a Dopamine boost.  Instead, make a list of those 3, then check them off one by one as you accomplish each.  As you’re accomplishing your 3rd task, you should get a small – but not insignificant – Dopamine boost.

Make a habit of this, and your Dopamine levels should rise significantly over time.

Another option is to be like this guy…


Cocaine actually boosts your Dopamine levels (probably a bit higher than they should be boosted).  That jolt of energy you get when you do blow – or, um… so I’ve heard – is akin to a massive Dopamine boost.

It’s not the healthiest long-term strategy, since massive Dopamine boosts lead to huge drop-offs directly afterwards, but if you’d like to know what a big-time Dopamine jolt feels like, and you don’t have the work ethic to accomplish a major life goal, then follow the coke-clown’s lead…

Just, whatever you do, try not to end up like this…


New YouTube Video! “The Rabbit Whisperer”

Hey now hey now!

So I am experimenting with different styles of YouTube videos… I started with a talk show, but quickly realized that I didn’t have the time/money/resources to make a good (consistently funny) talk show.  Anyway, most talk shows ARE NOT consistently funny if you think about it – most are just entertaining without really being funny.

Anywho – I decided to make a short documentary.  This ended up taking WAYYY longer than anticipated, so not sure if I will stick with this format or not, but I did enjoy the process.  So who knows?

The video is about Nadine Lavi – The Rabbit Whisperer.  It’s for a series titled ‘Creative Entrepreneurs’

Check it out RIGHT HERE


Meet Your Happy Chemicals (part 1/5)


‘Meet Your Happy Chemicals’ is a book by Loretta Breuning.

It’s unfortunate that “self improvement” books like ‘The Secret’ are so popular, while actual self improvement books which are grounded in science like this one are so overlooked (of course, people are idiots, so that’s to be expected…)


Meet Your Happy Chemicals identifies the four main neurochemicals in our brain that boost happiness – Dopamine, Endorphins, Oxytocin, Serotonin – and explains how each is created and what we can do to manage their output (and in the end, lead happier lives..).  These Happy Chemicals evolved with our brains over millions of years, and each serves a distinct purpose in relation to our survival within the animal kingdom.

This book was super controversial when it came out, because it flew in the face of the modern psychological theory which basically says that we should rise above our primitive brains and embrace our elevated consciousness. This book suggests accepting our primitive brains and working within that framework to make our lives better.


In the following posts, I will summarize the book by explaining what each chemical does and what we can do in life to stimulate each one – thus making us all happier and more productive.

If you don’t want to wait until my next post, you can always stimulate these chemicals on your own with drugs like Prozac, cocaine, ecstasy…  or even cutting yourself!


NOTE – I am not advocating cutting yourself.  The other stuff I might be advocating… depending on how responsible/financially well off you are.

So until next time…

Remember, even if you aren’t happy, you can always FAKE IT WITH CONFIDENCE!

Fake it with Confidence

Recently I self-published an e-book called ‘Fake it with Confidence’ (available here for only $3.99!)  The book is about my experiences using improv comedy to build confidence in my social life.

That whole thing may sound trite and silly, but it’s actually rooted in psychology; specifically one guy – the great philosopher and psychologist William James.

Here are a few timeless James quotes:

Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.

If you want a quality, act as if you already had it.

Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power.

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.

Basically, all these quotes say the exact same thing:  FAKE IT WITH CONFIDENCE.  If you change your beliefs, your reality will change.  Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t… you know the rest.

So that’s my little nugget for today.  Belief influences outcome, which influences belief, which influences outcome, etc…  the whole thing is a cycle.  That cycle can be positive or negative.  It’s up to you.

The Gratitude Challenge

Everyone wants to be happy. But few of us ever put any thought into what actually makes us happy.  We all think if we get more money, more success, more love, more sex, and less annoying family members, we’ll be happy.  Or, as British author Henry James once said:

“When [a man] has fair health, a fair fortune, a tidy conscience and a complete exemption from embarrassing relatives, I suppose he is bound, in delicacy, to write himself happy.”

It makes sense to think that way, doesn’t it?  I mean, if I get more of the stuff that I really want, and less of the stuff I don’t want… then I’ll be happy.  A + B = C.

There’s just one problem:  Happiness is an emotion.  And emotions don’t work like math equations.  You can’t just add up components and have them create your desired effect.  If we humans could do that, we’d all be happy all of the time (and life would probably be super duper boring).

Instead, happiness – like all emotion – needs a trigger; something that sparks the emotion itself.  Every emotion has multiple triggers.  For example, fear can be triggered by a strange man in your home, a giant dog, or the thought of Bruce Jenner’s upcoming reality show.  Likewise, happiness can have multiple triggers.  But there is one trigger in particular that scientists have discovered is nearly universal in generating happiness.

That trigger is GRATITUDE.

Dr. Martin Seligman was my psych professor at the University of Pennsylvania.  He’s also the founder of Positive Psychology and one of the most prominent psychologists ever.  Positive Psychology turned all psychology on its head (Silicon Valley people would use the term ‘disrupted’) by positing that psychology should actively try to amplify people’s well being, rather than simply aim to cure what ails them.  It was pretty revolutionary in its time.  Now it’s standard practice.

Anyway, Dr. Seligman has crated what he terms ‘The Gratitude Challenge.’  Before I explain what that is, I want to point out that I am NOT one of those uber-hippy-green-mantra-vegan-zen-Buddha-people.  So when I throw out something like The Gratitude Challenge, I do it because I know its legit.  This comes from years of scientific research by an actual innovative psychologist, not some chick who handles people’s chakras for a living.

That being said, here’s The Gratitude Challenge, as explained by Dr. Seligman himself:

For sound evolutionary reasons, most of us are not nearly as good at dwelling on good events as we are at analyzing bad events. Those of our ancestors who spent a lot of time basking in the sunshine of good events, when they should have been preparing for disaster, did not survive the Ice Age. So to overcome our brains’ natural catastrophic bent, we need to work on and practice this skill of thinking about what went well.

Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”).

Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?” For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up ice cream, write “because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes” or “because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.” Or if you wrote, “My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy,” you might pick as the cause … “She did everything right during her pregnancy.”

Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier.

That’s it!  That’s all.  That’s the entire challenge.  Just write down 3 good things that happened today and why they happened.  Do that every night before you go to bed.

The reason The Gratitude Challenge works so well is because it’s so freaking simple.  The whole thing takes maybe a minute or two.  And its genius is that it gets your brain into the habit of thinking positively, which, as Dr. Seligman points out, is against our evolutionary nature.

I come from a family of cynical intellectual New York Jews, so trust me when I say that I am one SUPER NEGATIVE MOFO.  But after just a few days of taking The Gratitude Challenge, I can honestly say that I began actually BEING MORE GRATEFUL during the course of my day!  Positive things would happen, and I’d start to notice them instead of brush them aside.  I’d APPRECIATE LIFE more.  Simply because i trained my brain to get into the habit of doing so.

And gratitude is the key ingredient – the secret sauce – of happiness.  The more gratitude I feel for the things I have, the less I dwell on the things I don’t have.  That equals more happiness, less unhappiness, and an overall better quality of life.

New Look for the Blog…

Hey now!

So after a brief hiatus, I am retooling this blog…  I read a ton of self improvement books… not pop-self improvement stuff like the godawful book ‘The Secret.’  If you read The Secret and found it inspirational, please leave my blog.  You are beneath me and don’t deserve to be here.  I am into the real deal stuff like ‘Meet Your Happy Chemicals’ and “The Chimp Paradox.’   Books written by scientists and intellectuals – people who know their shit.

So I am going to focus on quick things you can do to make life a little easier/better for yourself.  SELF IMPROVEMENT HACKS.

Each post should take you a minute to read, and should offer a tasty nugget of info on how to make your life a tad bit better. Hopefully they’ll make you smile too… cause, you know, smiling is good for you.

Tomorrow’s post will be about the famous ‘gratitude challenge.’  What is the gratitude challenge, you ask?  Well, stick around for tomorrow’s post and you’ll find out… (don’t Google it!  Wait for my post..  I will explain all)

Until then, enjoy the Super Bowl.  I hope the Cheatriots lose.  Then again, no one cheats like the Cheatriots, so I think they’re gonna win…



My Life in a Nutshell

Hey now!

So in my last post 3 weeks ago I promised to post a video and turn this into a v-log.  But then my friend’s funeral was 2 weeks ago and I was feeling really shitty so I didn’t do it.  Last week was Halloween, so I used that as an excuse not to do it.  I was gonna do it this week, but my friend who I was supposed to interview backed out at the last minute, so I wrote this blog post instead.  Next week will be a v-log.  I’ll interview myself if I have to.

Anyway, rather than let another week go by, I wrote a brief summary of my ridiculous life.  Enjoy…

Here’s my story:

I was the funny kid in high school and wanted to be on Saturday Night Live. I used to do impressions of all my teachers that would make everyone laugh, and write and perform full sketches in my room late at night – playing all the different parts myself.

Then came college, and for some reason I switched from actor/comedian to writer/director. Not sure exactly when or why that happened… but for some reason I decided to be the next Stanley Kubrick.

Bad decision.

I wrote and wrote and wrote… and didn’t write and didn’t write and didn’t write… years went by, I quit, felt like shit, my father told me to go to business school so I did… another 2 years went by and I felt even worse, because I had quit and went to business school – a place I didn’t belong. So I went back to being an artist. This time I decided to do everything. I wrote and directed and acted. I wrote a screenplay that nobody read. Took me 6 months. It’s actually not bad, but it’s not good either. It’s about Theseus and the Minotaur. Greek Mythology. I have a hard time coming up with my own stories for some reason, so I wrote a Greek Mythology story. I think I wrote it pretty well. Better than the god-awful Theseus movie Hollywood ended up making a few years later.

At the same time I made a web series. I wrote and directed and edited and produced it. It’s called CandyGirls. The whole thing took me 6 months. I got it up on some dinky web series website, where supposedly it got 1 million views (I’m convinced the website paid for bots from China or something… the guy running the site is a crook and a scam artist. He owes me 4-5 grand and never paid. I knew he was a scam artist and that he wasn’t gonna pay me when I agreed to put my web series on his site. I didn’t care. It wasn’t about the money for me, it was about exposure). Anyway, there was some talk about a company funding Season 2, which would have been awesome, but the Great Recession happened and they backed out. The series is about a recent MBA grad who partners with an ex-prostitute turned madam to run an escort agency. His MBA skills + the madam’s street smarts and experience end up making the agency a success. The first season was good, not great. Could have been funnier, I realize that now. I purposely went more for the drama and less for the comedy to be different from what every other web series was doing. That was probably a mistake. I should have just said fuck it, let’s be wacky and funny. But what are you gonna do? Anyway, we had a condom company on board for Season 2 – ‘One Condoms.’ They’re big in the gay sex market, supposedly. But they dropped out, so no Season 2.

I wrote some more – another web series about people working in a comic book store that’s actually really well-written (I think), but who the fuck is going to fund a web series? I funded CandyGirls, but good luck trying to find someone to shell out money for a web series with no celebrity attachments… so that never happened. This was before Kickstarter got big. We (the producer I worked with, and the guy who wrote the comic book the series was based on) probably would have used Kickstarter had it been around back then.

After that I got paid $60k to write a feature-script by a super-rich friend of my dad who’s produced a whole bunch of movies. He wanted me to write a script about a Christian guy in Spain who discovers his Jewish roots and then becomes a secular Jew. Not a religious Jew, a secular one. He stressed that the movie isn’t for religious people, and not a religious movie. Hmmm. Okay. Didn’t do a great job on that one, but didn’t do a shit job either. I guess I didn’t wow the guy cause the movie never got made.

It was at this point that I realized I am not a screenwriter. I mean, I knew that all along – I never wanted to be a screenwriter – I was only trying to muscle my way through it until I was successful. Then the plan was to shift over to directing. But why did I switch over from wanting to be a comedian/actor to wanting to be a director again…? Oh that’s right, because I’m a control freak.  That’s probably why I got into directing instead of acting.

Except here’s the thing: I’ve changed. Big time. Over the years I’ve become WAY LESS of a control freak. I did this deliberately. My dad is a huge control freak – like pathological. I recognized that and worked hard to change myself so I don’t end up like him when I’m older. I did a good job too. Now I’d say I’m not any more of a control freak than anyone else is, really.

And I’ve noticed that I could give 2 shits about directing. It’s weird, but I really do care less about it. Yeah sure, it would be nice to direct something – a big movie or TV show. But I don’t feel the urge like I did 10 years ago. I just want to entertain people now – either through comedy or acting or just plain talking or I don’t know what. I’m back where I was in high school, I guess. I’m 34 and I’m 16 all over again. Cool!

I’m shooting a comedy video with a friend. ‘Story Time with John and Camille.’ Camille is a comedian (comedienne?) and actress. We sit and tell each other stories – the kind you wouldn’t tell your mom – and then we film reenactments of those stories and intercut the two. My story is about the time I met a hot actress at a bar, brought her to my place, we started having sex (hey now!), and she was dirty-talking me (double hey now!), but then all of a sudden she leaned over and PUKED all over my brand new expensive white comforter. I turned and looked at her, and she CONTINUED DIRTY-TALKING, as if nothing had happened. At this point I had two options: A) I freak out that she just puked on my comforter, we stop having sex, she leaves, then I get a new comforter. B) I don’t freak out that she just puked on my comforter, we continue having sex (hey now!), she leaves, then I get a new comforter.

So I went with option B.

Camille’s story is about the time she was on the subway late at night, and a very large and sketchy gentleman entered the car and sat directly across from her, staring right at her. He took his baseball cap off, put it over his crotch, removed his dick, and literally started masturbating while staring directly at her. Then he tried to get her attention by asking her what time it was. Her response was to say that her phone is dead, which made her freak out even more, because she just told this sketchy dude who’s jerking off to her on the subway that her phone is dead. The guy said ‘it’s about a half-past 1, right?’ That’s when the train pulled into the next station and she got up and left.

So we’re shooting those two videos. We told each other the stories, and we already shot her video. Yup, that’s right, we actually went on the subway and shot the scene where a guy jerks off right in front of her. Camille’s actor friend played the guy. He was awesome. He’s a 6”5 ex-military guy, so he’s huge, and he was hi-fiving everyone on the train and making jokes. Everyone loved him. We were on the 4 train from 1-3am last night (Wednesday). We literally rode the 4 train from 59th street up to the Bronx and all the way down into Brooklyn.

So anyway I’m trying to do more comedy stuff now. I’m still writing though. I wrote a book – TurtleBunny – which is a personal finance and entrepreneurship book for young people. But it’s actually funny (or it’s supposed to be). It’s about a mythical magical TurtleBunny that appears to the Young Man and teaches him everything he needs to know about personal finance and entrepreneurship. Each chapter is a different lesson, and within each lesson the TurtleBunny uses her magic to conjure people and things, and travel with the Young man through space and time. A big-time publisher read the book and said he loved it. Not liked, “loved.” That was a week-and-a-half ago. He’s been MIA since. Still waiting to hear back from him. Hopefully he’s not dead in a Mexican brothel, or something. The publishing world moves slowly, so I’ve heard.

But I’m not sure if writing is really my thing. I mean, I guess I’ll keep doing it. But I’d like to perform more. I’d like to shoot more comedy videos. A talk show. I’d love to interview people. Not sure how to make that interesting though. I mean, I guess interviewing people is NEVER interesting – except on Howard Stern. Interviews are usually fake and BS. The best parts of talk shows are never the interviews, they’re the other parts – the parts that cost $$$ to produce. It’s just hard to get people to be honest in an interview. And that’s the only reason to interview someone, isn’t it? For their honesty.

Oh yeah, just remembered…

After I got paid the $60k to write the screenplay, I worked in real estate for a year. I didn’t close one deal and hated every minute of that job. I only did it because the guy I was working for was supposed to be a house flipper/investor who was moving up in the world, and my brother was planning to invest with him, and if I worked with him I might also move up in the world. But every deal he found fell through, so my brother didn’t invest, and I ended up not a house flipper/investor, but a salesperson. If there’s one thing I fucking hate in life, it’s people who try to sell me shit. So I quit.

Actually I didn’t quit, I just stopped showing up for work one day and stopped calling and emailing, and my boss never bothered to contact me. Technically I still work there. I just got a text from him a few days ago (randomly, for the first time in like a year) that if I want to keep my license I have to pay the $300 annual REBNY fee. I’m going to pay it. Who knows, maybe my brother will want to invest in real estate again, or maybe my parents will sell their house in Connecticut and buy an apartment in the City? It’d be nice to actually make some $$$ off real estate. I sat through the course, took the tests, and worked for a goddamn year, so it would be nice.

Fucking hate that job.

Anyway, my real problem so far has been that I don’t know what type of artist I want to be. First it was comedy, then acting, then directing, then writing, then back to acting, and now I guess it’s comedy. That’s a pretty ridiculous cycle. I mean, clearly I have no idea what the fuck I’m doing.

The one thing I did NOT do was get married and have kids. That would have seriously fucked my life up. If I had a kid, I’d be working a job I hate and slowly but surely getting addicted to a paycheck. Right now I have about a .00001% chance of making it, I’d say. But if I had a kid that number would be 0%. Literally ZERO percent. It may not sound like much, but that .00001% is everything right now. That’s my whole life. Having a kid sucks that life away. I mean, don’t get me wrong, kids are great – if you like kids. I just fucking hate kids is all. So why would I have one? And if I’m not gonna have a kid then why the hell would I get married? See, these are questions I don’t think people ask themselves enough. I think most people (guys, at least), just kinda go with the flow of life. Oh yeah, here’s a girl I like, maybe love, I’m supposed to get married right? Okay, cool. Now I’m married. Sooo, now what? Have a kid? Ummm, okay. Sure. Whatever. Holy shit! I’m 40 and my life sucks!?! How did that happen…??


Anyway, given my circumstance, the 99.99999% chance that I don’t make it won’t be so bad. I’ll probably inherit some money from my parents. Who knows if it’ll be a lot or a little by the time it ever happens… but it’ll probably be a lot. And I can end up one of those guys who buys a nice apartment and travels a lot and lives like a millionaire while doing random odd jobs that earn me $50k a year, if I’m lucky. Everyone always wonders who the fuck those guys are. Well guess what people, that’s ME in 20 years. MUUAAHAHAHAHAHAHAH….

It’s not the best life ever, but it’s not the worst. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not aiming for that life. I want to do big things. That’s just my safety net. Safety nets are great, as far as not dying goes. But not so great for living. Nobody walks a tight rope and falls into a safety net and gets up all excited and goes ‘all right! I hit the safety net!! I didn’t die! FUCK YEAH!!!’ You’re pissed you fell. But hey, if you’re gonna fall, might as well not splatter your brains on the sidewalk, right? Might as well get another shot at walking the tight rope.

So anyway, that’s my life in a nutshell. That’s where I am now. There’s other stuff, but that’s the stuff I thought about from 3:30pm on November 6th, 2014 to 4:30pm on November 6th, 2014, so that’s the stuff you get.

Overall I can’t complain much. I still do anyway though. Fuck it. It’s my party, I’ll complain.

I drank a coffee right before writing this, and I wrote for an hour straight. I feel good about what I wrote even though I haven’t read it over yet. Maybe I should drink coffee more often…

If you liked that post (or even if you didn’t like it), check out my new e-book, ‘Fake it with Confidence:  How to use Improv Comedy to be More Confident in Social Situations’  Available for only $3.99 on Amazon!  Here’s the link: