Gross National Happiness – an introduction

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Gross National Happiness was coined by His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuk in 1972. The country of Bhutan, since then is in pursuit of true happiness over any other form of progress.

What makes you happy? It is very difficult to answer this question in a sentence and for that matter, in a word, because the definition of happiness varies from person to person. The word that perhaps comes closest to summing up happiness is “progress”. Any form of progress in life drives a person to do what they do and in doing so makes them happy. Countries of the world are driven by some form of progress whether it is economic, military, territorial, political or regional influence. Progress in any form provides the countries of the world with a clear direction of where it wants to be. Amidst all of this exists Bhutan, a country whose happiness lies in the progress of happiness itself.

Gross National Happiness in Bhutan

WHAT ARE THE CORNERSTONES OF Gross National Happiness?

How can we pursue something that varies in definition for everyone? This is where the 4 Pillars of GNH holds its utmost importance.

1) Sustainable And Equitable Socio-Economic Development: Gross National Happiness does not forgo the need for economic development but rather focuses on equal economic development for all. It aims to provide the population of Bhutan irrespective of who they are with free health care, education and social services. Every Bhutanese would, therefore, be entitled to higher standards of living and access to modern facilities. As attaining equality in economic development is a gradual process it would be beneficial not only for the generation of today but even the generation of tomorrow.

2) Environmental Conservation: While the world is debating the existence of climate change and global warming, Bhutan has already prioritized the conservation of the natural environment in its constitution. The constitution mandates 60% of forest coverage at all times. However, Bhutan has been able to sustain more than 60% over the years. The forest coverage as of 2018 is 71 %. It is a biological hotspot for the forest, plants, endangered animals, high altitude animals and many more. The focus of environmental conservation has limited the tapping of natural resources but it is the cost the country is willing to pay for inhabiting healthy citizens and wildlife as well.

3) Preservation And Promotion Of Culture: Bhutan doesn’t have high military power or a large economy. It is, therefore, its unique identity that has maintained the sovereignty of Bhutan. The unique culture and tradition of Bhutan has enabled it to distinguish itself amidst superpowers that surround it. Bhutan’s language, dress, architecture, and traditional values have not been tethered by the onset of modernization. Bhutan has prudently embraced modernization and opened itself to the outside world.

4) Good Governance: Democracy was bestowed upon the citizens by the monarchs of the country in 2011. It was perhaps one of the most peaceful transitions of the form of government. Bhutan has since then seen three different political parties and three different prime ministers. The citizens of Bhutan have been the youngest members of democracy and have been gradually involving themselves in the process of nation-building.

IS THERE MORE TO THE PILLARS OF Gross National Happiness?

There are nine domains derived from the 4 pillars of Gross National Happiness and each pillar has its respective indicators.

  1. Psychological Wellbeing: It attempts to understand the reflection of one’s life in terms of the satisfaction one has and the existence of positive and negative emotions. It focuses on the cognitive approach for self-evaluation.


  • Life Satisfaction
  • Positive Emotion
  • Negative Emotion
  • Spirituality
  1. Health: This domain of Gross National Happiness centralizes the physical and mental health of an individual. It aims to understand the factors that enable an individual to live a stress-free, quality healthy life. It also tried to address the problems that obstruct an individual from attaining a healthy mind and body.


  • Self-reported health status
  • Number of healthy days
  • Disability Mental Health
  1. Time Use: This domain tries to study the appropriate time needed for work, recreational activities which would ensure quality use of time. It also aims at maintaining a healthy balance in work and non – work-related activities.


  • Work
  • Sleep
  1. Education: This domain doesn’t limit education in the formal environment like schools and institutions but also focuses on education acquired from informal sources like friends, family, and community.


  • Literacy
  • Schooling
  • Knowledge
  • Value
  1. Cultural Diversity and Resilience: It looks over the cultural diversity in the country, its preservation, and its promotion. It highlights festivals, arts, norms, and traditions.


  • Zorig chusum skills (Artisan skills)
  • Cultural participation
  • Speak native language
  • Driglam Namzha (code of etiquette and conduct)
  1. Community Vitality: It emphasizes the importance of maintaining a harmonious relationship in the community despite individual differences of race, religion and cultural background. It analysis the affinity of family members and neighbors amongst each other and stresses the practice of volunteering.


  • Donation (time & money)
  • Safety
  • Community Relationship
  • Family
  1. Good Governance: This domains examines the perception of people in terms of a good government. It tries to break down the attributes like efficiency, honesty, and transparency that makes up a good government. This indicator also helps to assess the level of involvement and freedom of the general public in forming a government and building a nation even at grass root levels.


  • Political participation
  • Services
  • Government performance
  • Fundamental rights
  1. Ecological Diversity and Resilience: This domain tries to comprehend the people’s perception of the environmental conservation. It also assesses their understanding of eco-friendly procedures. Natural hazards like forest fires and earthquake is also covered in this domain.


  • Wildlife damage
  • Urban issues
  • Responsibility towards the environment
  • Ecological issues
  1. Living Standards: This domain highlights the comfort brought upon by income, financial security, housing and ownership of assets.


  • Household per capita income
  • Assets
  • Housing