Since the tiny Himalayan country of Bhutan first came up with the idea of ditching standard measures of prosperity for a more inclusive Gross National Happiness (GNH) about a decade ago (GrossNationalHappiness.com), it has spread around the world. After gaining a U.S. foothold in Seattle, dozens of American cities and institutions have adopted the central tenets—the idea that the time has come to rethink our concept of well-being.
Today, the nonprofit Happiness Alliance (HappyCounts.org) supports grassroots activists that are challenging the idea that economic activity always leads to happiness and is pioneering new ways to think about and measure life satisfaction, resilience and sustainability. GNH proponents from around the country came together in Vermont last May for their fifth North American conference.
Alliance Executive Director Laura Musikanski says that more than 50,000 people and 100 municipalities, college campuses and businesses have been using the GNH Index, developed to more accurately gauge a community’s happiness, and the group expects to see even more growth as its expanding website tools allow more people to connect online.
“Economic success in terms of money only correlates with happiness up to a certain point,” she remarks. “After you meet your basic needs, the biggest things determining your happiness are community and feeling that you can trust the people around you and the democratic process.” While faith may be in short supply when it comes to community and politics today, Musikanski thinks there’s cause for optimism, because happiness is a core value in this country. “We believe in the Declaration of Independence and ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ These are truly American values.”