The pursuit of happiness is entrenched in our culture. It is so important that it is was written into the Declaration of Independence. But what does happiness mean to you? Money, Power, Social Status? No, for most of us the answer would be that spending time with friends and family brings us the greatest happiness. Most people value experiences over things.
In the country of Bhutan in the Himalayas, they instituted GNH (Gross National Happiness) Index instead of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) Index. They used factors such as; psychological well-being, physical health, time or work-life balance, social vitality and connection, education, arts and culture, environment and nature, good government, and material well-being, to measure happiness. In the nearly 3-hour well-being survey, they ask questions like, “How much time and money do you devote to your community, how many hours do you sleep, how many hours do you work, do you meditate and how frequently do you pray?” Questions that may surprise a North-American reader but help to convey what the Bhutanese think is important in determining happiness.
A well-being study done in Victoria, Canada showed “high levels of wellbeing are improved by strong social relations, feelings of connectedness to community, and relatively low levels of material deprivation for most members of the community”. (https://victoriafoundation.bc.ca/past-initiatives/happiness-index-partnership)
Given the amount of evidence that community engagement and social connection increase happiness, perhaps looking outward instead of inward will lead to greater personal happiness.
On a recent trip, I I asked people around the world what they needed to feel happy and to live a life with dignity. Here are some of their answers: