Gross National Happiness… what does it mean? An Introduction to Gross National Happiness.

08 Dec Gross National Happiness… what does it mean? An Introduction to Gross National Happiness.

Gross National Happiness…what does it mean?

An Introduction to Gross National Happiness

So, what is this Gross National Happiness (GNH)? Gross National Happiness is a socioeconomic development model that places the fundamental values of kindness, equality and humanity before Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GNH measures the genuine progress of a country in a holistic way and acknowledges that the beneficial development of a human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to compliment and reinforce each other providing a more sustainable present and future.15390669_10154832683429744_4017587226457242837_n

So, what is Happiness? GNH recognises true abiding happiness as serving others, living in harmony with nature, realising our innate wisdom and the brilliance of our own minds as opposed to the fleeting kind of happiness one can experience from superficial, outward, material possession.15369935_10154542816057559_6556050069887385706_o

So, isn’t Happiness subjective? GNH believes that in providing a holistic framework it may cultivate an environment that provides a nation and its people an opportunity to thrive by enabling conditions for people to pursue their own Happiness and Wellbeing. GNH insures preconditions such as clean air and water, good health, decent living conditions, knowledge, peace, security and justice, right relationships and right understandings as the fundamental basis for GNH.

So, why do we need Gross National Happiness? In our present times GDP solely exists for economic growth. The dogma for economic growth however is in ignoring the value of ecological and social benefits. As GDP grows we see an equal decline in health and wellbeing. The conventional paradigm of GDP sees a divide between social, ecological and economic factors. GNH, a holistic model, allows investment in regeneration and sustainability on a global, national, community and individual level.

We are living in a time when our consumption is higher than the production of natural resources required to sustain this level of consumption. Our global ecological footprint is already out of our means at one and a half planets compared to our bio capacity. At this rate, with business as usual, by 2050 we will need three Earths to break even… you do the math! GNH matters because we are living in a time of boundless consumerism amidst widening socioeconomic-inequality and instability which is causing rapid resource depletion and degradation. Climate change, species extinction, multiple crisis, growing insecurity, instability and conflicts that are not only diminishing our well-being but are also threatening our very survival. No one is untouched by these matters. Hunger, disease, poverty…open your eyes!15319100_10154832690094744_8165695117420872002_n

So, where did Gross National Happiness come from? Gross National Happiness is a new development paradigm stemming from the Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel, Bhutan’ s legal code of 1729, stating that “if the government cannot create and happiness and peace for its people, then there is no purpose for the government to exist.” His majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth king of Bhutan, famously declared “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product” when he realised that the existing development paradigm of GDP did not consider the ultimate goal of every human being: HAPPINESS!

In 1998, GNH was presented at the UN regional summit in Seoul. By 2007, GNH emerged as a philosophy for government policies and development. GNH was taken to United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) 2009-2011, where the resolution was to place well-being and happiness as a standalone goal in development. In 2012, April 20th was declared international Happiness day by 800 participants at a gathering at the UN headquarters.15326339_10154832685389744_2919109037822286238_n

What is the philosophy of GNH? The four main pillars of GNH philosophy are:

  • Sustainable development
  • Preservation and promotion of cultural values
  • Conservation of the natural environment
  • Establishment of good governance

The four pillars are further elaborated into 9 domains, which articulate the different elements of GNH in detail and form the basis of GNH measurement, indices and screening tools.

  • Living standards
  • Education
  • Health
  • Environment
  • Community Vitality
  • Time-use
  • Psychological well-being
  • Good governance
  • Cultural resilience and promotion15319105_10209913078257622_6930433522931623681_n

So, who governs GNH? There are 4 main GNH bodies. The Gross National Happiness Commission , who ensure all development polices and plans are formulated and implemented in line with the principles of GNH. The Centre for Bhutan studies and GNH research , conducting evaluative studies and providing feedback prompting continual improvement of programs and policies. The New Development Paradigm: A royal government of Bhutan initiative , is a collaboration with International working group contributors offering a wide range of expertise from around the world. The GNH centre Bhutan: Gross National Happiness in action , offers the unique opportunity to experience GNH principles in daily life and to reflect on how to implement these principles in our own context in a practical way. GNH centre offers an inspirational and motivational experience that can transform participants deeply.15319279_10154832689614744_8927096975615354437_n

There is something to be said for Gross National Happiness. Bhutan is currently the only ‘carbon-negative’ country in the world and their forests are currently sitting at approx. 70% of a mandated 60% minimum forest cover benchmark.  Over 50% of this nation is declared as a protected area, all connected through physical ‘biolinks’; and Bhutan also recognised as a global biodiversity Hotspot.

So now you know the facts.

Gross National Happiness is a holistic and sustainable approach to development which aims to strike a balance between material and non-material values, prioritising the Happiness and well-being of humans and all life.

So, what does your Happiness mean to you?


           Credit for images

  • Kobi Pollock

    Happiness I believe is being kind to others and expecting nothing in return. Connecting with nature and caring for this planet for future generations. Also being thankful and enjoying and loving those around us, beingfamily friends or acquaintances. Thank-you for sharing Samantha xx

    • Samantha Bennett

      Kobi Pollock you have the right ideas! These aspects are the primary focus of GNH and also the very gift I came away from the trip with. Family, simplicity, nature, mindfulness and being of service bring a deep sustaining kind of happiness. Thank you for reading and being open Kobi xx

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