Philosophy of Happiness

What would it look like if the United States Congress voted issues based on gross national happiness?

“The essence of the philosophy of Gross National Happiness is the peace and happiness of our people and the security and sovereignty of the nation.” Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Bhutan’s King

Perhaps we might examine events in our life as the people of Bhutan do. When the country was deciding if it wanted to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), they turned to their Center for Bhutan Studies and ranked how joining the WTO would score in each of nine domains defining the nation’s happiness:

Psychological well being
Standard of living and wellness
Good governance and gross national happiness Health
Community vitality
Cultural diversity and resilience
Time use and happiness
Ecological diversity and resilience

If joining did not contribute to gross national happiness in a specific domain, the score would be one. If it contributed significantly, the score would be four. To get a yes vote, the total score had to be 96 or higher. The vote for joining the WTO ended up being 42 and therefore did not pass since it would not contribute to gross national happiness.

As a group exercise, we might take an event Congress is debating, such as immigration reform, and score how we feel a certain solution would contribute to our happiness and well-being in each of the nine domains listed above. What score did your survey come up with? Is Bhutan offering us a new measurement tool for making national decisions?

What would it feel like if people around the globe promoted happiness every day and made decisions based on the Gross National Happiness Index?

An initiative to declare an international day of happiness came from the Kingdom of Bhutan – a country whose Gross National Happiness Index takes the view that “sustainable development should take a holistic approach towards progress and give equal importance to non-economic aspects of well-being.”

Bhutan was successful in offering happiness as a universal goal for the United Nations. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs announced: On 20 March 2013, the first ever International Day of Happiness will be celebrated worldwide. The

day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly to promote happiness as a universal goal and aspiration in the lives of people around the globe.

Hummm, this seems like a creative way to dream the new earth into being.


Information in this blog was captured from a talk given by John de Graaf: “Happiness, Time and Sustainability: Lessons from Bhutan.” John is an advisor to the government of Bhutan for its UN report on happiness. 

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