Monday, May 23, 2022
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Nation’s Happiness is better than GDP!

K.B. Jandial

While googling to find important Days being observed in India, I was amused to find some of the very interesting comparatively unknown International and National Days falling in the months of March and April. Two of these Days need special mention which, in a way, are interconnected.
One was the International Day of Happinessand the other, perhaps unknown to most of us, the National Walk Around Things Day.
On 12th July, 2012, the United Nations’ General Assembly declared 20thMarch as International Day of Happiness, recognising the importance of happiness and well-being as common aims and ambitions in the lives of people worldwide. The National Walk Around Things Day is observed on 4th April to create awareness to avoid our problems to have peace and happiness despite problems packed stressful life.
With our planet experiencing unprecedented challenges, it is more important than ever before to strive to be happy. The purpose of the International Day of Happiness is to raise awareness on the importance of happiness in one's life and the overall impact it can have on a person's well-being. In 2013, 193 member States of UNO commemorated the first International Day of Happiness.In 2015, the United Nations created 17 Sustainable Development Goals, with the aim of reducing poverty, inequality, and protecting the environment — three fundamental components that have bearing on the happiness and well-being of human beings.
In fact, it was Bhutan that took the initiative to recognise the superiority of the ‘national happiness’ overthe ‘national revenue’ since the early 1970s, and famously adopted the objective of “Gross National Happiness” (GNH) over Gross National Product (GDP). In 1972, the Fourth King of Bhutan, JigmeSingyeWangchuckdevised a new measurement index for the country named “Gross National Happiness” (GNH) and rated it more important than GDP. The UN General Assembly passed a Resolution "Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development" urging member nations to follow the example of Bhutan and measure happiness and well-being and calling happiness a "fundamental human goal". Bhutan's Prime Minister JigmeThinley and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon convened the High Level Meeting on Well-being and Happiness and defined a New Economic Paradigm to encourage the spread of Bhutan's GNH philosophy.
GNH is distinguishable from GDP by valuing collective happiness as the goal of governance, by emphasizing harmony with nature and traditional values as expressed in the nine domains of happiness and 4 pillars of GNH. The four pillars of GNH are sustainable and equitable socio-economic development; environmental conservation; preservation and promotion of culture; and good governance. The nine domains of GNH are psychological well-being, health, time use, education, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards.
Across these domains, there are 33 indicators, and the index is decomposable by demographic characteristics, so that it can be broken down further. For example, the index could be used to show whether certain geographical locations or age groups are falling behind in education. Over the years GNH has evolved and is now defined as a “multi-dimensional development approach for seeking to achieve a harmonious balance between material wellbeing and the spiritual, emotional, and cultural needs of society”. It has been used to place happiness and wellbeing at the centre of Bhutan’s decision making.
But it is also a reality that the GNH Index doesn’t put Bhutan as the happiest country. It leads the way in pushing wellbeing to the forefront of decision making and giving it equal importance to economic factors. It’s something that many other countries could learn from Bhutan, and it has lessons for individuals too.
As the world is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, “Build Back Happier” was chosen as the theme for World happiness Day- 2022. The COVID pandemic saw lockdowns and the economy and people's livelihoods severely harmed. Simultaneously, the world is on the brink of a nuclear war, at least Russia threatens every day while marching ahead in Ukraine. Obviously, in this situation, happiness is at an all-time low.
At present time, material possessions have taken over people’s well-being, and worry, anxiety, despair, and frustration become our consequent driving emotions. Therefore, it's vital to raise awareness on the importance of happiness in people’s lives. How significant is happiness? American philosopher and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” According to Abraham Lincoln, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” Mahatma Gandhi felt that, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
First World Happiness Report was launched in 2012 which rated all countries in Northern Europe (Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Netherlands) as the happiest countries. India stood at 94 out of 170 nations surveyed and was behind Pakistan nine slots it. The least happy countries are all poor countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (Togo, Benin, Central African Republic, and Sierra Leone). The Report held that wealth alone didn’t make people happy. The major factors listed include political freedom, strong social networks and absence of corruption.At the individual level, good mental and physical health, someone to count on, job security and stable families are crucial.
The report reflects a new worldwide demand for more attention to happiness and absence of misery as criteria for government policy. It reviews the state of happiness in the world today and shows how the new science of happiness explains personal and national variations in happiness.Behaving well makes people happier.Mental health is the biggest single factor affecting happiness in any country. Stable family life and enduring marriages are important for the happiness of parents and children. It found that In advanced countries, women are happier than men, while the position in poorer countries is mixed.
Linked with the Happiness of the people is another lesser known Day –‘National Walk Around Things Day’ being observed on 4th April. Name of the Day is quite unusual. The underlying objective of the Day is to avoid your problems and enjoy in an otherwise very stressful life. The Day seeks to give answers to certain worrying situations by ‘walking around’ the problem rather than taking it head-on. The Day creates awareness to learn tosimply neglect the problem and enjoy peace instead. One needs toavoid unnecessary arguments and confrontation. After all, the people (nation) deserve peace and happiness. In our grooming days, we werecounseled to avoidcontentious issues and forget problems to opt for happiness & peace.
Bonnie Hayden Cheng,Professor in the University of Hong Kong, who carried out research into the management of multiple responsibilities in a busy world,told‘why avoiding problems can be a good thing. In their study, Bonnie and Professor Julie McCarthy sampled a number of university students that were juggling school, family, and work responsibilities. They focused on two distinctive avoidance strategies: One was hoping issues would simply disappear & the other doing activities to take the mind off problems, which turned out to be the better approach. Therefore, if we have a number of things that are troubling people at the moment, they may decide that the best thing to do is to throw yourself into other activities that are going to take our mind off any issues that could get you down. This is what the National Walk Around Things Day tells the people.
National Walk Around Things Day is a great opportunity to try new ways of thinking and looking at the world. It’s a great way to change things up from our normal routine by simply walking around things and remaining happy. The people should take this wonderful concept forward and add to their happiness andconsequent happiness of the nation.

(The author is retired IAS[email protected])

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