The tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan, inspired by Buddhist spiritual values, measures the well-being of its people. They take into account four pillars – sustainable development, cultural values, preservation of the natural environment and good governance. These four pillars include eight general contributors to happiness- physical, mental and spiritual health; time-balance; social and community vitality; cultural vitality; education; living standards; good governance; and ecological vitality. During our visit in 2007 we travelled widely, soaking up the atmosphere of peace and well-being. We felt the Gross National Happiness Index was successful in guiding decision-making.
In contrast most Western nations use Gross National Product as a measure of a success. Yet GNP only measures spending, and goes up every time there is a disaster, a car accident, a crime, because of the cost of recovering from these setbacks. Robert F. Kennedy said “The GDP counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage … yet does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play … It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile”
As we seek to find inner balance and happiness, we also look for balance in our communities. Soon we will be asking for our nations to prioritise the happiness and well-being of the people and the environment of which we are an integral part, rather than the amount of money we spend.
The GNH index has inspired others around the world; things are changing, from individual, to village, to nation, to the whole of our beautiful Earth.