Bhutan’s GNH
Bhutan’s nine facets of happiness

Bhutan, if you didn’t know, is a tiny Buddhist kingdom sitting on the edge of the Himalayan mountains, between China and India. But did you know the value Bhutanese people place on happiness? In fact, it’s regarded so highly that the philosophy of happiness firmly guides the life of Bhutanese people and the governing bodies of this small Himalayan country.

“Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product”. These are the words of the fourth King of Bhutan, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who famously ousted GDP as the measurement of prosperity of a nation. Since then, the country has followed an alternative approach to set Bhutan on a holistic, sustainable development plan, aiming for the ultimate happiness and wellbeing of its people. The Gross National Happiness (GNH) index is used in place of GDP, to form the country’s formal economic and social policies, as well as looking after the spiritual, physical, social and environmental health of its citizens and natural environment.

So what does the index consist of? The Bhutanese government outlines 9 official criteria, forming the basis of GNH measurement, indices and screening tools:

1. Psychological Wellbeing (The satisfactory level of life, emotions, intelligence)
2. Standard of Living (income, equity and assets)
3. Good Governance (Political participation, freedom, services)
4. Health (physical health, mental health, wellbeing, disabilities)
5. Education (literacy, knowledge, value system)
6. Community Vitality (social support, family, relationships, crime)
7. Cultural Resilience and Promotion (language, skills, social culture, harmony)
8. Time Use (working time, sleeping time)
9. Ecological Diversity and Resilience (Pollution, environmental responsibility, wildlife, animal welfare, urbanization)

Each domain is equally important. So, in other words, getting around 8 hours of sleep each night is as important as earning a healthy income. The domains aim to emphasize different aspects of wellbeing equally, and to provide indications on how to meet and satisfy underlying human needs. Understandably, this belief that wellbeing should take preference over material growth has mystified the rest of the world. Now, in a world surrounded by collapsing financial systems, inequality and wide-scale environmental destruction, there’s a lot of interest falling on this tiny Himalayan state and their way of governance.

People have flocked from far and wide to experience the Bhutanese way; the simplistic holistic approach of this small Himalayan Buddhist kingdom in finding happiness, fulfilment and spiritual prosperity. The country finds importance in balancing rights, responsibilities and individual happiness, as well as community value. As Bhutan reiterates, material wealth is a means, not an end. Following this, other nations have followed in the search of contentment through happiness, including Canada, Brazil, US, Thailand, Philippines, UK and the UAE.

What are your thoughts on Bhutan’s GNH? Do you agree with their approach to governance? Happiness itself is a puzzling subject and raises so many questions. Is happiness part of our genetic makeup? Is it part and parcel of our culture? Is it a personal matter, or is it a social issue?

Let us know what you think!

Let us know what you think!

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