Gross National Happiness

In just a few hours I’m off to Brazil to speak at the 5th International Gross National Happiness conference… and I want to take you all with me. I’ll be blogging frequently as I deepen my own understanding of GNH and tell others how the Your Money or Your Life approach actually can help us all live happily within our collective means. Let me tell you more…

The concept of gross national happiness (GNH) is an attempt to define quality of life in more holistic and psychological terms than gross national product.


The term was coined in 1972 by Bhutan’s former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who has opened up Bhutan to the age of modernization, soon after the demise of his father, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. It signaled his commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan’s unique culture based on Buddhist spiritual values. Like many moral goals, it is somewhat easier to state than to define. Nonetheless, it serves as a unifying vision for Bhutan’s five-year planning process and all the derived planning documents that guide the economic and development plans of the country.*

GNH is not the only attempt to develop indicators of human well-being rather than financial wealth. The Genuine Progress Indicator is another. The Happy Planet Index is a third – and there are many more.  I will teach a teleclass on “What is happiness?” next year to share what these various measures as well as research from positive psychology teach us about putting money in service to Life rather than our lives in service to money.

What can we learn from the GNH now? The GNH website goes into detail about what they are measuring to discover if their country is going in the right direction:

Economic Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of economic metrics such as consumer debt, average income to consumer price index ratio and income distribution

Environmental Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of environmental metrics such as pollution, noise and traffic

Physical Wellness: Indicated via statistical measurement of physical health metrics such as severe illnesses

Mental Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of mental health metrics such as usage of antidepressants and rise or decline of psychotherapy patients

Workplace Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of labor metrics such as jobless claims, job change, workplace complaints and lawsuits

Social Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of social metrics such as discrimination, safety, divorce rates, complaints of domestic conflicts and family lawsuits, public lawsuits, crime rates

Political Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of political metrics such as the quality of local

Stay tuned. I arrive in Brazil on Thursday, the conference starts on Friday. I’ll be in touch!


2 thoughts on “Gross National Happiness

  1. Hi,

    Interesting thoughts!

    By asking “what is happiness” you ask a very good question. Recently I had my own shot at defining happiness, which aims to be more “scientific” and “objective” (as much as this is possible for a subjective feeling such as happiness):

    “A person can be considered to have experienced a “happy” moment if the person chooses to re-live it as an end in itself if offered at no cost.”

    For the detailed derivation of this conclusion please have a look at What is happiness? ; I’d love to hear what you think!

    Thank you,


  2. Reminds me of that Churchill quote: “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”

    Enjoy Brazil and what they have to give!

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