Gross National Happiness in Bhutan

The phrase Gross National Happiness (GNH); was coined in 1972 by Bhutan‘s fourth Dragon King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Originally the phrase represented a commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan’s culture based on Buddhist spiritual values, instead of western material development gauged by gross domestic product (GDP). Today the phrase is embraced and reflected outside Bhutan, In which the GNH concept has inspired a modern political happiness movement around the world. Therefore In July 2011, the United Nations passed Resolution 65/309, that was adopted unanimously by the General Assembly in July 2011, placing “happiness” on the global development agenda.

Four Pillars of GNH Philosophy and Nine Domains.The intuitive guiding principle of Gross National Happiness led to a practical conceptualization of the concept. The foundation is made of four pillars:

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 inline 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.

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.

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.

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.

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. The nine domains are as follows: Living standards, Education, Health, Environment, Community Vitality, Time-use, Psychological well-being, Good Governance and Cultural resilience and promotion. These 9 domains, clearly demonstrate that from the perspective of GNH, many inter-related factors are considered to be important in creating the conditions for happiness.