What Makes Us Happy?
By Marianne Ward
“I believe that the purpose of our life is to seek happiness”, so states the Dalai Lama in ‘The Art of Happiness.’
Fittingly, on October 9th, a handful of people had the pleasure of welcoming John deGraaf and Laura Musikanski to the Center to hear them present on Gross National Happiness (GNH) – translation: wellbeing.
John is Executive Director of Take Back Your Time and Outreach and Communications Director of The Happiness Initiative. He has produced more than fifteen national PBS documentaries, and is the co-author of ‘Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic‘ as well as the forthcoming ‘What’s the Economy for Anyway’?
Laura Musikanski is the Executive Director of Sustainable Seattle and the Director of The Happiness Initiative.
We learned that GNH originated in Bhutan. In 1972 when the newly appointed 16-year old king was asked what he would do to increase Bhutan’s Gross National Product (GNP), he replied, “Gross National Happiness (GNH) is more important than Gross National Product”. GNH, he said, would be the goal of his reign.
And so, in time, Bhutan began to measure nine domains that affect happiness:
• Psychological wellbeing or mental health
• Physical health
• Time or work-life balance
• Cultural vitality and expression
• Social connection and relationships
• Environmental quality and access to nature
• Quality of governance
• Material wellbeing
The United Nations, too, has called on all governments to make “the pursuit of happiness” their goal and find ways to measure it.
Wellbeing is clearly so much more than the economic health of a country and cannot be measured by the GNP. War, environmental disasters, a mass influx of money into elections, and the high cost of products all increase GNP.
Yet, with the incessant daily news reports on the Gross National Product one could easily conclude that Americans are valued solely for their contribution to the economy – be it as workers, consumers, inventors, or job creating entrepreneurs.
GNH, as stated on its website, is based on the premise that the calculation of ‘wealth’ should include the preservation of the environment and quality of life issues. The goal of a society should be the integration of material development with psychological, cultural and spiritual considerations – all in harmony with the Earth.
GNH USA, based in Vermont, kicked off the movement here in the US last year with a conference in Burlington which included speakers and delegates from seven countries, including Bhutan, and 17 states and provinces.
More exciting things are to come; another conference is in the planning…stay tuned!