Once upon a time in Bhutan….

Bhutan may be a small country, but it sure has some grand ideas: in 1972, it recognized the importance of national happiness and decided to put it before national income. The government thus adopted a goal of Gross National Happiness, as opposed to Gross National Income. In 2012, the country held a meeting in front of the UN’s General Assembly, on Happiness and Well-Being and how these affect and define economic paradigms.

Ever since, March 20 is officially World Happiness Day.

National Happiness is gross?

No, wait, what is gross National Happiness (GNH), exactly?

Bhutan’s philosophical model has evolved into a socioeconomic development index that measures happiness and well-being. Economic, environmental, physical, mental, political, social and workplace wellness parameters are identified by quantitative measures. For instance, for mental health metrics, one of the indicators is the population’s intake of antidepressants.

Gallup and its happiness surveys

In 2009, the Gallup poll system decided to launch World happiness surveys, modelled on the GHN framework. It evaluates 5 elements (purpose, social, financial, community, and physical) in order to obtain Gross National Happiness.

And what of it?

In 2013, Panama was the country with the highest well-being with 66% thriving in three elements or more. The idea is for the country to thrive not in only one element (financial well-being) but also in community focused elements.

Unsurprisingly, only 1% of Syrian and Afghan adults thrivein one element or more in the same survey.

However, answers also show that some people in poverty stricken areas show higher rates of happiness than others in developed countries – emphasizing the fact that happiness is based on perception, education, and its societal definition.

Final round of questions

And now for the ultimate question: now that happiness has been recognized as relevant to human development and “recognized in public policy goals”, how do we go about promoting and maximizing people’s happiness?

The idea is for policy makers to take into account these elements, as well as GDP, when working on development goals. It is uncertain whether GNH can act as a catalyzer to achieve these goals or not.


Enough negativity, it is International Happiness Day, after all.

The UN has revealed a happy playlist today to invite to spread the happiness and bring a little more hope for a better world.

Turn the music up and do what makes you happy. And if it can make someone else happy, let’s hope we can maximize world happiness pretty quickly.