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  • Happiness Is A Place
  • Sonee Singh
  • DefinitionsHealingStress ManagementTravelWellness

Happiness Is A Place

Happiness Is A Place

In my previous article about Bhutan I had mentioned the concept of Gross National Happiness or GNH. It has been on my mind since my visit, as I have wondered if Bhutanese are happy people? I decided to research this further.

The idea of incorporating spirituality and happiness into government existed since the 8th century in Tibet and shortly thereafter spread to Bhutan. However, it was not until the 1970s that King Jigme Singye Wangchuck the 4th started talking about creating happiness as a purpose of the state. He formally coined the term GNH in 1979, and in 1986 in an interview with the Financial Times of London famously stated “GNH is more important than GDP” (CBS & GNH Research, 2016, p. 34).

In this article I will discuss the 9 domains that comprise GNH in Bhutan, as described by the Centre of Bhutan Studies or CBS. The CBS has conducted surveys amongst the Bhutanese to see how implementing GNH and its 9 domains affected the population. The most recent one was conducted in 2015 by the CBS & GNH Research, and showed that out of the over 7,000 Bhutanese interviewed, 91.2% experienced happiness and 43.4% were deeply happy (2016). This indicated that my thoughts were correct. People in Bhutan are happy.

It is fascinating to think that the concept of GNH has yielded such positive results. As a holistic health coach, I am drawn to ponder about these domains and reflect upon how they impact my life. I will share some of the questions I reflected upon. Hopefully you can use some of them to reflect upon your own happiness.

1. Psychological Well-Being

Psychological well-being has to do with how people feel about their lives. It looks at “quality of life, life satisfaction and spirituality” (CBS & GNH Research, 2016, p. 1). It is a subjective measure that considers emotions, feelings, and moods. It does not consider social or economic factors, but instead considers how positively or negatively a person feels bout their life (CBS, 2017).

This led me to consider:

How do I feel about my life?
What can I do to make myself feel better?
How can I improve my spiritual practices?

2. Standard of Living

Standard of living considers income and material comforts through cash “financial security, housing, asset ownership,” (CBS & GNH Research, 2016, p. 1), and through other sources such as gifts, stock of goods, assistance, health, and others. It considers these other sources because cash income is not the only measure that determines standard of living and the level of happiness that is derived from it. Standard of living and happiness are also affected by all the assets a person has at their disposal, regardless of its source (CBS, 2017).

This led me to consider:

What contributes to my standard of living, other than my cash income?
How satisfied am I with my standard of living?
What can I do to improve it?

3. Good Governance

Good governance is about “how people perceive government functions” (CBS & GNH Research, 2016, p. 1). It considers how the source of authority or the governance encourages participation from all people in its society, how they conduct the rule of law, how transparent and accountable they are, and how effective and equitable they are. In Bhutan, the governance is tied to its citizens’ measure as happiness, as it is in the constitution that the State promotes GNH (CBS, 2017).

This domain is harder to translate into our daily lives since the Kingdom of Bhutan is the only country in the world where the State is involved in its citizens’ measure of happiness. A person may choose to get their government to consider measuring GNH in their country, but that could be complicated and lengthy process. For the short-tem, my takeaway is that the measure of happiness is not just dependent on the individual, but rather on the community as a whole. There are other people who are invested in my happiness, and in return I am invested in other people’s happiness.

This led me to consider:

How involved am I in ensuring the happiness of those around me?
What can I do to improve other peoples’ happiness?
What more can I do for those around me?

4. Health

This domain includes physical and mental health, and considers how we go about our daily activities without feeling unnecessary stress (CBS & GNH Research, 2016). The condition of our body and our health are closely linked to the measure of happiness because without proper health we cannot live our lives (CBS, 2017).

This led me to consider:

How healthy am I?
What can I do to better my health?
What can I do to reduce the amount of stress I feel?

5. Education

The domain of education includes “types of knowledge, values, and skills” (CBS & GNH Research, 2016, p. 1). It incorporates lessons and teachings not just from educational institutions, but also from the home, the community, and other sources (CBS, 2017).

This led me to consider:

Besides my schooling, what are my sources of knowledge?
How rich in values, skills, and knowledge am I?
How can I incorporate knowledge and value-seeking into my daily life?

6. Community Vitality

The strength of the community is determined to a certain extent by its economic standards, but more so by dimensions of “relationships and interaction within community, social cohesion, and volunteerism” (CBS & GNH Research, 2016, p. 1 & 2). It incorporates giving, safety, family, and length of time the community has been in place (CBS, 2017).

For me, the health of our community involves tolerance and acceptance. I am new to the community I live in, and I seek to be integrated and accepted, and I imagine this is something everyone strives for, particularly those who are recent immigrants or refugees.

This led me to consider:

How involved am I in my community?
What can I do to contribute to the betterment of my community?
In what ways can I give back?
How can I make sure that everyone in my community feels a sense of belonging and acceptance?
How can I make sure that everyone in my community feels protected and safe?

7. Cultural Diversity & Resilience

Cultural diversity is a complicated domain to measure. It looks at “strength of cultural traditions and festivals” (CBS & GNH Research, 2016, p. 1). It looks at different aspects of culture including language, values, customs, beliefs, sense of identity, creative arts, and participation in cultural activities, as well as how all of these develop over time (CBS, 2017).

In these turbulent times this is an incredibly important domain. Sadly we have been witnessing atrocities and terror attacks in the name of intolerance and rejection of cultural diversity. Instead of standing for that, it is important to stand for respect, inclusion, and tolerance for diversity.

This led me to consider:

How have my cultural values, beliefs, and customs changed over time?
How well does my lifestyle abide by my values, beliefs, and customs?
How can I show more appreciation for others’ diversity?
In what ways am I similar to those who appear to be different from me?

8. Time Use

The dimension of time evaluates “how much time is spent on work, non-work, sleep; work-life balance” (CBS & GNH Research, 2016, p. 1). The GNH looks at how productive a person is or how well time is used in different realms of their lives, including at work, at home, caring for family, caring for the sick and old, in social activities, and in service of the community, amongst others. The purpose is to consider the balance between work and life, and eventually stress (CBS, 2017).

Time is the most limited resource. I know I am not alone in thinking that I do not have enough time.

This led me to consider:

How do I spend my time?
How would I like to spend my time?
What activities do I truly value spending my time on?
What activities do I feel contribute to ‘wasting’ my time?

9. Ecological Diversity & Resilience

In my previous article I shared with you how much the Bhutanese care for the environment. This domain is also a part of GNH, and considers “peoples’ perception on environment,” as well as assessment of eco-friendly practices and natural hazards, such as forest fires and earthquakes (CBS & GNH Research, 2016, p. 1).

This led me to consider:

What can I do more of to care for our environment?
What can I do less of to care for our environment?
What is one eco-friendly practice I can implement today?

I hope we all take a moment to ponder these questions. I did, and that led me to one last question:

How can I create my own happiness place?


Website Links

Bhutan Studies

Gross National Happiness

Happiness Is A Place

Tourism Council of Bhutan


Centre of Bhutan Studies. (2017). 9 Domains. Gross National Happiness. Retrieved on June 1, 2017 from

Centre for Bhutan Studies & GNH Research. (2016). A Compass Towards A Just and Harmonious Society: 2015 GNH Survey Report. Timphu, Bhutan: Centre for Bhutan Studies & GNH Research.


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  • Sonee Singh
  • DefinitionsHealingStress ManagementTravelWellness