Gross National Happiness

What is GNH?

Gross National Happiness, or GNH, is a holistic and sustainable approach to development, which balances material and non-material values with the conviction that humans want to search for happiness. The objective of GNH is to achieve a balanced development in all the facets of life that are essential; for our happiness.

We are in the age of the Anthropocene when the fate of the planet and all life is within the power of mankind. Boundless consumerism, widening socio-economic inequality and instability is causing rapid natural resource depletion and degradation. Climate change, species extinction, multiple crises, growing insecurity, instability and conflicts are not only diminishing our well-being but are also threatening our very survival.

Today, it is inconceivable for modern society to function without the business of commerce, finance, industry or trade. These very factors are altering human destiny by the day in extraordinary ways, both positive and negative. GNH directly addresses such global, national and individual challenges by pointing to the non-material roots of well- being and offering ways to balance and satisfy the dual needs of the human being within the limits of what nature can provide on a sustainable basis.

Four Pillars

1.Good Governance

Good Governance is a considered a pillar for happiness because it determines the conditions in which Bhutanese thrive. While policies and programs that are developed in Bhutan are generally in line with the values of GNH, there is also a number of tools and processes employed to ensure the values are indeed embedded in social policy.

2.Sustainable Socio-economic Development

A thriving GNH economy must value social and economic contributions of households and families, free time and leisure given the roles of these factors in Happiness.

3.Preservation and Promotion of Culture

Happiness is believed to be contributed to by the preserving the Bhutanese culture. Developing cultural resilience, which can be understood as the culture’s capacity to maintain and develop cultural identity, knowledge and practices, and able to overcome challenges and difficulties from other norms and ideals.

4.Environmental Conservation

Environmental Conservation is considered a key contribution to GNH because in addition to providing critical services such as water and energy, the environment is believed to contribute to aesthetic and other stimulus that can be directly healing to people who enjoy vivid colours and light, untainted breeze and silence in nature’s sound.

Nine Domains

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

  1. Living standards
  2. Education
  3. Health
  4. Environment
  5. Community Vitality
  6. Time-use
  7. Psychological well-being
  8. Good Governance
  9. Cultural resilience and promotion

These 9 domains, clearly demonstrate that from the perspective of GNH, many inter-related factors are important in creating the conditions for happiness.

For example, GNH counts the importance of material security as one of these – and assessing whether people enjoy sufficient and equitable living standards, is included in the GNH survey. Similarly, the happiness of human beings is not seen as separate from the wellbeing of other life forms, and ecological diversity and resilience are included in the measure of GNH. The balance between material and non-material development, and the multi-dimensional and interdependent nature of GNH are key features that distinguish GNH from GDP as a measure of a country’s progress.

In accordance with these 9 domains, Bhutan has developed 38 sub-indexes, 72 indicators and 151 variables that are used to define and analyse the happiness of the Bhutanese people.

Learn more about GNH *HERE