Tag Archives: Gross National Happiness

“Being a small part of something big”

FullSizeRenderTeresa Belton’s book Happier People Healthier Planet: How putting wellbeing first would sustain life on Earth has proven an inspired read to ease into the new year, helping me to re-commit to priorities I’ve personally set (and sometimes struggled with) over the last 8 years, since I first started studying Buddhism and learning about the concept of “gross national happiness.”

This scholarly text is filled with intriguing stories of people who have made choices to live more simply,; to quit jobs they hate and step off the treadmill of consumption; to steer instead onto paths that honor who they are, instead of being who society expects them to be.

As Belton lays out artfully in her text, these choices aren’t just good for the individual; they’re helpful to the planet, overall.  Having control over one’s life, she writes, rather than achieving success in the eyes of others, is what matters for genuine well-being.

One remark from an interviewee hit my recovering Type-A self hard: “The realization and the acceptance that I wasn’t ambitious in the slightest enabled me to pursue work which wasn’t about getting somewhere and more about enabling me to live a more authentic lifestyle.”

“More isn’t better,” concludes an interviewee named Mark, “…I hate waste and greed…nature is free, generous, delightful, uplifting.  Because consuming only what I find I need reduces my carbon footprint and allows me to feel good about myself and my place in this environment.”

You may not finish this book inspired to make radical shifts in your life, like eschewing air travel or bathing, as one woman does to preserved natural resources, using a bucket and soap rather than in the shower.  You may be like one interview subject, who despairs over the use of the word “happiness” when there is intractable suffering and degradation of our natural resources. (Others point out the tremendous good even one person can make in shifting the state of the world.) But if you’re even mildly intrigued by the ideas that recognizing we are “a small part of something big” trumps any house you can buy or promotion you can get at work, and that solitude and silence and nature are more nourishing than pricey handbags, you’ll find this a satisfying read.  It’s good to know there are people out there who are driven by such strong, positive beliefs that take into account their fellow humans, not simply by the grab of cash most of us are instructed to pursue.

Be true to yourself in this year 2015.

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Not about happiness

ImageWhat’s this, you might ask? The newly elected prime minister in Bhutan, the articulate, social-media-sophisticate and Harvard-educated Tshering Tobgay, has already declared that he doesn’t see it as his job to promote the Gross National Happiness thing to the rest of the world.

The recently exited last prime minister made a big show of the happiness discussion, appearing at the United Nations and other places to discuss the benefits of Gross National Happiness.  (Which, by the way, was simply a term bandied in an offhanded remark by the then-Kingsome 40-odd years ago in response to a reporter’s question about his planned economic growth strategy.)  He was roundly criticized by educated Bhutanese for doing so, while economic and social problems swirled and grew around him.

This seeming shift isn’t really a surprise.  This new prime minister has long decried the shiny, happy thing (see the paperback edition of my book, actually, where we meet during his service as opposition leader) and realizes there are other deeper issues in Bhutan to be addressed.

Many intellectuals in and around Bhutan hate the “happiness” thing.  (Less educated people there aren’t really aware of it; they’re too busy tending the land and surviving.)  One reason some snipe at my 2011 book, Radio Shangri-La, is because they assume from the title that it’s all about celebrating Bhutan and tra-la-la happiness.   (When in fact if they bothered to read it, they’d learn that it’s all about how media and globalization–and the promise of making piles of money–are making Bhutan unhappy.  Which is why some other people dislike the book!)

Of course the irony is that media headlines (like book titles) reduce complex issues to slogans and soundbites–which is another theme I tackle.)

Tshering Tobgay is to Bhutan like Barack Obama was to the US back in 2008, a powerful and thoughtful steward of promise and change. It’s going to be exciting, these next five years, to see how he tackles issues like rising unemployment, alcoholism and corruption, among other problems that Bhutan sadly faces along with most of the rest of the world.

And maybe, just maybe, he’ll even address the refugee issue….

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A million dollars of happiness for Santa Monica

The city of Santa Monica has been awarded a million-dollar grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies to develop an index for well-being.  (You can read about the other winners of the”Mayors Challenge” in this NY Times story.)

ImageSanta Monica’s produced a slick promotional video for the effort (shot on the Big Blue Bus, buses being indicators of happiness because they avert that antidote to happiness, commuting.) While it incorrectly claims they shall be the first city to chart happiness (Seattle beat them to the distinction, and then there’s what’s been doing in the state of Vermont) it’s still exciting to see the city leaders commit to understanding, and then hopefully improving, quality of life.  By actually factoring quality of life into the equation, rather than treating it as a sideline.

The question they pose in their proposal: “how can cities use limited resources more effectively to create conditions needed for people to thrive?”

And of course all these efforts derive from the Gross National Happiness movement that emanates from the Kingdom of Bhutan….and, if you’re reading this, you likely know my interest in all that.

Now of course, none of this makes anyone happier. (And happiness is a squishy thing to define, right?)  It just makes people aware of the component parts that make a community a good, productive, proactiveplace to live.


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Happiness 2012: The Conference

My friend the wise guru of time management/work-life balance John DeGraaf is putting together this important conference.  It’s in Seattle later this summer.  Lots of poobahs in the happiness movement will be there…. Here are the details.  





With keynote speaker Eric Weiner of NPR, author of



Join activists and experts in a broad-ranging conversation about an old ideal, the pursuit of happiness!

In July, 2011, the United Nations urged all member nations to make “the pursuit of happiness” the goal of their governments and find ways to measure their success. We are meeting in Seattle to plan strategy for putting the UN’s call into action.

Don’t miss this exciting conference exploring the potential of this new movement. At this conference you’ll…

  • Learn about the vital new worldwide movement for happiness
  • Find out about how you can use the Happiness Initiative to improve your community
  • Learn about the connection between happiness and sustainability
  • Help plan “Pursuit of Happiness Day” (April 13) for 2013
  • Hear prominent authors including Eric Weiner, The Geography of Bliss; Vicki Robin, Your Money or Your Life; Cecile Andrews, Less is More; and John de Graaf, Affluenza.
  • Meet leaders of happiness movement in the US, including Laura Musikanski, director of the Happiness Initiative, Tom Barefoot of GNH USA, and Dr. Ryan Howell, creator of the Happiness Initiative survey.

Workshops will explore Happiness and Health, Compassion, Environment, Mental Health, Education, Arts and Culture, Finances, Government, Time Balance, Social Connection, Government and Workplace Satisfaction.

See the full conference schedule:  http://www.timeday.org/happiness2012/schedule.html  

Special training for community happiness leaders August 23-24:http://www.timeday.org/happiness2012/trainthetrainer.html

Like us on Facebook and share widely! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Happiness-2012-A-Strategic-Gathering/292977507463631

Download the poster here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=302958349798880&set=a.292985974129451.66033.292977507463631&type=1&theater

Where: Seattle University

Full conference (includes reception with food and beverages): $55 general/$40 students and low-income. 
Day passes (buy at the door if space available): $35/25.

REGISTER NOW, SPACE IS LIMITED! brownpapertickets.com/event/251135


For more information contact: con2012@sustainableseattle.org.





(206) 443-6747




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Students explore Gross National Happiness

At Allegheny College in Meadville, PA, they’re practicing for Pursuit of Happiness Day on April 13th by examining GNH over GDP.  I particularly like the “Minimization Mania Initiative.”


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