GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS
“Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product”
– His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan


GNH is the sum of spiritual well being and material well being of the man and society. It is popularly known as ‘Gyalong Gakid Pelzom’ in Bhutan. ‘Gyalong’ – which means Gross, ‘Gakid’ – means happiness & peace and ‘Pelzom’ – meaning development in terms of material well being of a society.

Gross National Happiness (GNH) was coined in 1972 by fourth Dragon King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Originally the phrase represented a commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan’s culture based on Buddhist spiritual values, instead of western material development gauged by gross domestic product (GDP).gross-national-happiness3

His Majesty the third Druk Gyalpo (dragon king), Jigme Dorji Wangchuck expressed his view on the goals of development as making “the people prosperous and happy.” With this strong view in mind, the importance of “prosperity and happiness,” was highlighted in the King’s address on the occasion of Bhutan’s admission to the United Nations in 1971.

While the emphasis is placed on both, prosperity and happiness, the latter is considered to be more significant. The fourth Druk Gyalpo emphasized that for Bhutan “Gross National Happiness,” is more important than “Gross National Product.” Thus, Gross National Happiness is now being fleshed out by a wide range of professionals, scholars and agencies across the world.
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The GNH policy now serves as a unifying vision for Bhutan’s five-year planning process and all the derived planning documents that guide the economic and other development plans of the country. Bhutan believes GNH important for:

  • GNH helps every Bhutanese to understand traditional values and ethics with better quality of life and welfare.
  • GNH will expand choices and opportunities with greater self reliance of the nation and individuals.
  • GNH helps to recognize, promote and instill and appreciate the importance of the nation’s rich cultural heritage and its value.
  • GNH helps to share equitably the benefits of development between different income groups and regions so that there is social harmony, stability, unity and development.
  • GNH helps to promote transparency and accountability and ensures that every citizen f kingdom is supported by law.
  • GNH helps to maintain the principles of environmental sustainability.

Four Pillars and Nine Domains
The intuitive guiding principle of Gross National Happiness led to a practical conceptualization of the concept. The foundation is made of four pillars such as:

  1. Good Governance

Good Governance is considered as a pillar for happiness because it determines the conditions in which Bhutanese thrives. While policies and programs that are developed in Bhutan are generally in line with the values of GNH, there is also a number of tools and processes employed to ensure the values are indeed embedded in social policy.

  1. Sustainable Socio-economic Development

A thriving GNH economy must value social and economic contributions of households and families, free time and leisure given the roles of these factors in Happiness.

  1. Preservation and Promotion of Culture

Happiness is believed to be contributed by preserving the Bhutanese culture. Developing cultural resilience, which can be understood as the culture’s capacity to maintain and develop cultural identity, knowledge and practices, and able to overcome challenges and difficulties from other norms and ideals.

  1. Environmental Conservation

Environmental Conservation is considered a key contribution to GNH because in addition to providing critical services such as water and energy, the environment is believed to contribute to aesthetic and other stimulus that can be directly healing to people who enjoy vivid colours and light, untainted breeze and silence in nature’s sound.

The four pillars are further elaborated into nine domains, which articulate the different elements of GNH in detail and form the basis of GNH measurement, indices and screening tools.

  1. Living standards
  2. Education
  3. Health
  4. Environment
  5. Community Vitality
  6. Time-use
  7. Psychological well-being
  8. Good Governance
  9. Cultural resilience and promotion

In accordance with these nine domains, Bhutan has developed 38 sub-indexes, 72 indicators and 151 variables that are used to define and analyze the happiness of the Bhutanese people.

For detailed and substantial information regarding the GNH Index please visit The Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research at www.bhutanstudies.org.bt

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