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Gross National Happiness

Gross National Happiness

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Published by nirlavana
The importance of national happiness and how it can be measured!
The importance of national happiness and how it can be measured!

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Published by: nirlavana on Mar 13, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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So often, when we think about what happiness means to us, we get lost in considerationsof money. Even though the songs tell us that money can't buy us love, we simply cannotrid ourselves from the idea we need money to make us happy. Our governments think the same way and they have burdened our minds with concepts of gross national product: how much money we all make together as a nation decides our nationalhappiness.In my earlier writing about the “Abolishment of Money”, I set out my thought on theideal state, where people can thrive in a society without money. Of course, this conceptis still very far from us. It is difficult to grasp how we can live without anything as basicas money, especially because we continually have to endure economical brainwashingon the importance of consumerism through our media, work and educationalenvironments. Even Jesus told his disciples that people should not toil for their food, butthis seems to have been successfully filtered out of our Bible classes as one of his leastwell known, or least appreciated, teachings.Yet, there is a place in this world where money is not sacred, where the happiness of the people is not made dependent on how much they produce or consume. This is a smallkingdom somewhere in the Himalayas called Bhutan. There, the government hasdecided that they want Gross National Happiness, not Gross National Product as themeasure stick for success of its national policies and government.Gross National Happiness is a concept that is based on the idea that sustainabledevelopment should take a holistic approach towards notions of progress and give equalimportance to economic and non-economic aspects of well-being. The term was coinedin the 1970s by Bhutan's fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuk and given academicfoundations with the GNH program as from 2005 by developing a scientific index tomeasure Bhutan's national happiness.To be able to measure through this GNH Index, they have constructed a detailedquestionnaire for people to fill in. This questionnaire is designed to include 9 coredomains that are regarded as components of happiness which domains are then
subsequently divided into indicators that are considered informative with respect to eachof the domains. These 9 domains are selected on normative and statistical grounds andare equally weighted because each domain is considered to be relatively equal in termsof its intrinsic importance as a component of GNH.The relevant 9 domains are: psychological wellbeing, living standard, health, time use,education, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality andecological diversity and resilience (not in order of importance).
 Psychological wellbeing 
 Generally speaking, psychological wellbeing refers to how people evaluate their ownlives. In this evaluation, people are guided by rational judgments about their lifesatisfaction and by emotions and irrational feelings about things. Scientists havedeveloped many indicators and done extensive studies on how psychological wellbeinginfluences people's happiness. For example, is has been researched that people who havehigh scores in psychological wellbeing tests, later earn high incomes and perform better at work then people who score low in wellbeing (and not the other way around as we sooften believe!). It is also found to be related to physical health.
Standard of living 
It is considered that a good measurement of standard of living as a material basis of wellbeing, is determined by the person's access to resources, comprising of bothmonetary and non-monetary income. Of course, it is evident that in the modern society,having no resources frustrates wellbeing. However, again, many scientific studies in thisfield have shown that there is no causal connection between material wellbeing andhappiness: in several industrialized countries where income has drastically increased,subjective wellbeing or happiness has not increased or in some cases even fallen;relative income affects happiness more than absolute income, as happiness oftendepends on expectations and social comparisons; income affects wellbeing of people but beyond a certain threshold level, it ceases to influence wellbeing; and people adept tocircumstances and people with higher adaptation capabilities tend to be happier evenwhen their incomes are very low.
Good governance
It is obvious that the way a government exercises power and structures the society, willinfluence people's wellbeing. If a government is democratic and has low corruption, then people will naturally feel more free and able to exercise their own life choices.
Happiness without good health is difficult to imagine. Again, it has been researched that people with generally good health have a significant higher probability of being happythan people who have bad health.
We all know that 'knowledge is power'; education qualification is found by research, to positively impact the quality of life as experienced by people. Usually, individuals withliteracy skills and high education, are more likely to have a high standard of living,compared to people without.
Community Vitality
We as a species live in communities. It is therefor self evident that the quality of life of our community will influence the quality of our life. Specific dimensions of communityliving like volunteering and giving, social cohesion, safety, family life and duration of stay in the community, can provide good insight in the level of vitality of communities,which translates into level of life quality. 
Cultural Diversity and Resilience
The significance of cultural diversity is internationally recognized and is one of thespearheads of the UNESCO policies. Its resilience is also very important, as it shows theculture's capacity to maintain and develop cultural identity, knowledge and practices,and to overcome challenges and difficulties from other norms and ideals.
Time Use
 Time is an extremely important resource for everybody. As we have only 24 hours in aday, we constantly juggle to find the time to do all the things that are on our busyagendas. This juggling gives us high stress. High stress leads to negative healthconsequences and decline in wellbeing.So how do we know then who is happy? From the indicators of these 9 domains, aweighted measurement of happiness will follow. In this perspective, 'happiness'comprises having sufficient achievements in 6 out of the 9 domains. In practice, theBhutan GNH Index looks for achievement in 66% of the weighted indicators, whichever domains they belong to. This allows for diversity in several ways. For example, not allindicators are relevant to all people; also, every person may not need sufficiency in100% of the indicators to be happy as they may focus on some areas in their lives andfinally, if a person has a core of achievement, he or she may may be able to compensateinternally for other deficits.The beauty of this system is not only that it shows whether people are happy in acountry, but that it can also serve as a guide to change or develop new policies, directedto make people happier in certain areas, as the surveys will show where people arelacking in wellbeing. In this way, the government can be really for the people!Of course now we want to know whether or not the people in Bhutan are happy?

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