We can reel of the names of the world’s richest people. We covet lives in the world’s wealthiest places. We create lists of the best and worst countries depending on who has the highest GDP (gross domestic product).
And yet, some people refuse to participate in this dog-eat-dog world.
One remote kingdom, with its towering mountains sprinkled with ancient stupas, decorated with prayer flags and blessed with an abundance of natural beauty and spiritualism, rejects the traditional measure of GDP. Barely a few centimeters on the map, but large in thought, Bhutan measures worth not as Gross National Product, but as Gross National Happiness, or GNH.
Inspired by the teachings of Buddhism, Bhutan has developed the GNH Index to measure the well-being and quality of life of their people...beyond wealth. An indicator of the state of a nation and the lives of its people which goes beyond economics, the GNH assesses spiritual, environmental and physical reality.
Breaking away from the herd of a hundred countries to go its own way, Bhutan is moving towards building a just and harmonious society.
Today, on the International Day of Happiness, how about we draw some inspiration from their admirable philosophy? Below I present a personal version of Bhutan’s GNH indicators – a way for us to measure our own Gross Personal Happiness (GPH).
Follow them to survey your personal wellbeing... to find where your true happiness lies... to discover where it's missing... and use it to make your life richer.
- Economic Wellness: Now, I know we said we would put money aside to gauge true happiness, but this measure is not about how much money you have. It is, instead, about your relationship with that money. It doesn’t matter how much you have, but it matters how you use it. Your comfort with your own financial situation, with the work you do, and with how much you earn, spend, and save. Are you debt-free? Can you fulfill your family’s basic needs as well as the occasional indulgence. If you feel like taking your family out for a good meal, and can do that without spending all your time looking at the prices, then you are likely in a good state of economic well-being. If you are always worried some emergency will come up and wipe you out or you could lose your job, then you need to work towards greater financial security. For a lasting sense of economic wellness, follow the incontrovertible rules of financial success: Spend less, and save more.
- Environmental Wellness: Look around you. Are you happy where you are? Do you have enough space for you and your children to be comfortable? Do you have a swing in your balcony where you can sit down at the end of a busy day and lose yourself? Is there a park in your neighbourhood where you can go for morning walks, or to catch some fresh air? Is there a Jamatkhana accessible to you in a way that is comfortable? If you can think about your environment with a pleasurable sigh, rather than a fretful frown, you're doing quite well.
- Physical Wellness: An 80-year old real estate broker travels across India looking at properties, stands straight as a rod, and doesn't use a walking stick. So, we had to ask him his physical wellness secret: Every morning, come rain, shine or knee pain, he finds a pool wherever he is and goes for a swim. Your physical wellbeing is reflected in your happiness with your body. If you like the way you look, can engage in the activities you like to do, and are free of serious illnesses - you can enjoy life fully. Find your 'swimming secret', and you will find great physical wellness.
- Mental Wellness: Your mental health is the one directly reflecting your state of happiness. Do you feel happy? Can you sleep peacefully, or do you find yourself laying awake worrying about your future. Do you struggle through bouts of depression.
Happiness is a state of mind. To be truly happy, your mind must be well. To enhance your mental well-being you can engage in wellness activities like yoga or meditation. Spending quality time with your loved ones will also give you mental happiness.
- Workplace Wellness: Job satisfaction is a significant part of wellness, after all, we spend about a third of our lives working. Do you wake up every morning dragging your feet at the thought of heading to work? Or are you happy and ready to go be productive, whether you work in an office or freelance? If your day passes without too many frustrated glances at the clock ], and you head home at the end of a day with a feeling of accomplishment, I would say your workplace wellness is in order.
- Social Wellness: While Indian drama-filled family soap operas will make you question whether anyone in India has socially sound relationships, the truth is, as a nation we are good at creating and maintaining strong social ties. Being the land of joint families, we are skilled at compromise, forgiveness, and accepting new additions to our families all the time. We need to hold on to these traditions of living in harmony, and use them to foster social wellness, not just in our families, but also in our neighbourhoods, our communities, our society at large...
- Political Wellness: Bhutan uses this indicator to measure the quality of local democracy, individual freedom, and foreign conflicts. Let's do the same here. Do you have personal security? Do you feel free to make the choices that are important to you, without undue pressure from others? Equally important, do you give that freedom to those around you. If your spouse and child feel personal security and freedom to pursue their heart's desires, then you score well on political wellness. If your elderly parents feel you will always be there for them without making them feel like burdens, then you are doing well. If not, your politics need a bit of adjustment.
So the value of your life can be measured, after all. Not, like economists believe, in rupees or dollars, but like Buddhists, in a holistic and meaningful manner.
Use the Gross Personal Happiness indicators to create a picture of your life, and you will see clearly what path you must follow to grow, and live your happiest life possible.