The Coronation of ‘Gross National Happiness’

February 25, 2011 |  by  |  Dispatches, Government

In 1972 the new King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck stated to the world that a nations success should not lie in its Gross National Product (GNP) but rather, ‘Gross National Happiness’ (GNH). At 17 years old and well before the west started examining the concept of ‘positive psychology’, this was a bold yet comfortable declaration for the youngest ruler in the world at the time. He recognized that the rich are not always happy and often those who are poor and happy tend to declare themselves quite rich. The King’s statement signaled his commitment to building a modern yet unique culture based on Buddhist values—the ideal of Gross National Happiness reigned.

GNH was developed and expanded by Bhutan to measure quality of life or social progress in more psychological (or intangible) terms than GNP. Buddhist teachings state that we live in a mentally conditioned universe. What primarily shapes our experiences is of the mind; what we think, how we feel, what we cultivate in our heads. So if one’s primary focus is to generate well being in life, wouldn’t it make sense to start with our essence—with our mental well being?

Wangchuck remained steadfast in generating decisions and changes for his country based on a means developed to measure GNH. He went on to rule for 30 years with GNH as his countries underlying essence (before he recently abdicated the throne for unique reasons). But the essence of a concept in action is only as solid as subsequent results. The tiny country of Bhutan has generated enough tangibles to gain attention in over 40 countries who have embraced GNH, as well as the US who named Wangchuck to, ‘Time magazine's 100 People Who Shape Our World in 2006’.

This post just barely puts to throne such a vast and fascinating topic! In upcoming posts we’ll discuss how Bhutan has developed a means to measure GNH, as well as how Wangchuck ruled his country with GNH as its foundation. Stay tuned!

In the meantime we want to hear from you; Have you lived or experienced a country who promotes a measurement system for GNH? Do you have any ideas on how you could measure Gross National Happiness in your daily life?

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