Gross National Happiness: Tiny Bhutan Has A Vision For All
by Lynette Sheppard
August 12, 2012 - 8:24am

The Olympics never fail to make me cry. All right, most of the time, I’m a blubbering mess in front of the television. Watching young athletes push themselves to be their best gets me, but even more when they shore up their fellow and sister athletes? That really gets to me.

Still, the most moving moment of these Olympics had nothing to do with winning or consoling. A female archer from Bhutan was eliminated in the first round of competition. And she was happy - just to be there.

She comes from a tiny Himalayan country that measures gross national happiness rather than gross national product as the primary indicator of successful development. And her beaming face was a testament to just how important is that philosophy.

Gross National Happiness? I had to know more! I booted up You Tube. There are dozens of clips that showcase Bhutan and Gross National Happiness. Most are longish but well worth the watching. However, watch this video for a quick explanation of GNH.

Thought provoking to say the least. Bhutan’s monarch explained the four pillars of his country’s GNH index: personal wellbeing (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual), environmental wellbeing, cultural wellbeing, and good governance.

Hmmmmm. I don’t live in Bhutan and have no plans to visit there. Yet. Still, what could I learn right here and now from their Happiness model? I think of myself as a pretty happy person overall, and yet, how much time each day to I spend really focusing on happiness? “Where attention goes, energy flows” is a major tenet of many spiritual traditions. Maybe a little attention to my GIH (gross individual happiness) index is in order.

So I sat down to assess the main pillars of my GIH. What focuses me on happiness and fulfillment? I came up with six things.

1. Deep nurturing relationships

2. Connection with Nature

3. Creative stimulation and expression

4. Meaningful work

5. Solitude and down time

6. Recognizing beauty.

So my plan is to consciously focus on each of these pillars every day. Sure, I’ll get bogged down in minutiae, bureaucracy, just life stuff. Still, maybe I can train my attention just a little bit every day and remember that happiness is my choice. And when I forget? I’ll head back to YouTube for a refresher like this New York Times piece.

For more info about Bhutan Gross National Happiness, visit

Babson August 12, 2012 - 8:37pm

Thanks, Lynette! Love your list, too!

John Derbyon August 12, 2012 - 10:38pm

Thanks, Lynette... Another eye opening post!

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