Going Beyond The Purchase For Happiness

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Dr. Ryan Howell of San Francisco StateMeet San Francisco State’s Dr. Ryan Howell, positive psychologist and co-founder of beyondthepurchase.org.

In partnership with Beyond The Purchase, we're excited to offer the Delivering Happiness community surveys and personalized feedback that explore the connection between personal values, spending habits, and happiness. Read on to learn more about Ryan and beyondthepurchase.org, and look for his forthcoming blog series with DH.

DH: Tell us how you decided to enter the field of psychology and the type of research you're involved with now.
(Ryan Howell) Originally I wanted to be a clinical psychologist; however, I quickly found out that I wasn’t going to be the next Dr. Phil. Oddly enough, it was a statistics class where I found my true academic love—asking and answering questions by analyzing data.

Then, I took a positive psychology (or science of happiness) class as a graduate student. During that class the research question that consumes my inner dialog was birthed: how can people spend their money to improve their happiness and the happiness of others? My lab now focuses on this topic, or what we might call positive consumer psychology.

What was your impetus for creating beyondthepurchase.org?
It was a natural extension of what my co-founder, Dr. Ravi Iyer, and I had been researching. We had created a number of surveys to determine the predictors of people’s financial decisions. Our participants told us that these surveys really made them think about how they spent their money—a lot of people told us they were going to make some changes in their buying behavior. Ravi suggested that we develop beyondthepurchase.org, to help people discover their spending tendency and how their spending choices affect their happiness.

How do you deliver happiness to others in your teaching / research?
I try to find out what a person is good at and put them in a position to use their strengths; this allows them to feel competent. I try to foster a classroom where people feel connected to each other and enjoy helping each other out.

What brings you happiness in your life?
Friends and family, watching a beautiful sunset, drinking a good wine, and talking about life. Also, baseball, peanuts, fog, coffee, running through Golden Gate park make me pretty happy in day-to-day life. I can find a lot of enjoyment, satisfaction, and happiness by analyzing data. I don’t know why playing with data is so fun – but it is.

What about DH, the book and/or the Movement, inspires you the most?
Delivering Happiness is going to be a bridge between the science of happiness (or positive psychology) and non-scientists. By disseminating what we academics are learning every day, DH will be able to have a direct impact on the happiness of people.

What's your advice to someone who wants to start making happiness a priority?
One way is to track of your happiness and what you are doing. When people review a list of what they are doing, and when they are feeling alive, connected, in awe, and satisfied, they can try to prioritize those activities.

How can folks get started with Beyond The Purchase?
Start by registering on the site. Then take our Implicit Buying Motives Study (in the "Learn About Your Spending Habits" section) to see what influences your buying behavior. You might also try other surveys. Along the way, we think you’ll find out a bit more about why you buy and what makes you happy.

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