Huddled between the mountainous wonder of Tibet and the great subcontinent of India lays the nation of Bhutan, also known as “Druk Yul”; The Land of The Thunder Dragon. It is here where a Nation and its people set themselves apart from the rest of the world, by carving a clear path towards happiness. Happiness that focuses more on the contentment of livelihood rather than the wealth found in both material and individual interest.
This unique nation-wide pursuit was conceptualized in the 1970s – guided by a holistic approach called Gross National Happiness (GNH), which examines and cultivates the well-being of the Bhutanese in a form of sustainable development for contentment. The GNH index captures the values of the Bhutanese people, prioritizing spirituality, community cohesion, and carbon-negative forms of ecology. It’s in this creative goal of Bhutan, that no policy rules over by not meeting these values. Thus, signifying a destination where one can seek a deeper sense of fulfillment and enriched contentment.
When examining how the GNH index is measured according to its governmental philosophy, we must look into the Buddhist understanding of happiness; contentment, calmness and compassion. In a method that breaks them down into ‘9 domains’ which vary from cultural diversity and resilience to ecological diversity, there is a balance of spiritual and philosophical components that help contribute to their unique holistic approach.
With the utility of GNH, Bhutan may not be ranked at the top of the World Happiness Report, but with its long-term vision for national well-being taking Centre stage, the way it aims to achieve better development is through the importance of free health care, education, and ecological awareness. According to Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, it’s healthcare and education that represent the biggest social levelers to achieving a long-term goal for the country’s well-being and happiness.
Education is seen as a source for creating future potentialities in sustainable development interests of the nation, but also in linking their Buddhist teachings of happiness via the strengthening of the mind and spirit to deepen the contented outlook of impermanence.
In addition, their philosophy has increased life expectancy over the past 30-40 years thanks to modernization and better access to nutrition and care. This development would then translate well to the ecology’s relation to GNH, for being an eco-conscious culture, there is a tax system from the consequences of climate change vulnerability on the land. In that, it achieves an unprecedented level of carbon-negative atmosphere and a mandated forest coverage of 70%. Hence GNH mode of happiness understands and let’s go the passing of wealth in favor of sustainable development of well-being with the land and people.
Bhutan’s unique path towards happiness and well-being prompts us to internally reflect on our own values we attach to happiness in relation to us as a society. Is it possible we can reach our own contentment in correspondence to both a more collective connectedness and ecological mindfulness as a long-term goal? Or maybe am I slightly lost in the philosophy of it all. But if a kingdom of thunder and dragons has trailblazed a life of fulfillment, can we not all achieve the same?