The Importance of Gross National Importance (GNH)

By Christina Sarich

lilyI have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three things are your greatest treasures. ~ Lao Tzu

Is your life worth more than a fancy car, the latest smart phone, a big house, and a fat paycheck every month? Consider that people in 80% of the world don’t have any of these things, yet, as indicated by GNH, they somehow find a way to be happy.

Sometimes it seems the things we value the most in the ‘civilized’ world have the least true value. Life is priceless. We can read that line and let it be meaningless or allow it simmer in our brains like soup, let it become a stew of all our greatest moments, our worst, our closest friendships, our most cherished love and heartbreak. Life is meaningless and empty without these things.

The Democratic Republic of Bhutan recently tried to change our focus from gross domestic product to gross domestic happiness. Gross National Happiness (GNH) is now an important factor on the other side of the world, in a nation tucked into the Himalayan foothills, that determines exactly what life is worth. Instead of measuring how fat our wallets are, or how big our flat screen televisions, the GNH comprises happiness levels based on four pillars:

“The promotion of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development; preservation and promotion of cultural values; conservation of the natural environment; and establishment of good governance.”

Economic and cultural homogeny – a world where we all suck down coca-cola and work 60-hour weeks to afford the material goods we think we ‘need’ is a big brainwashing load of hogwash. We don’t need more of a military-industrial complex, more government full of special interest and corporate irresponsibility, or more ‘things’ we can distract ourselves with. While a reasonable level of financial wealth will certainly provide some happiness, it is not the only benchmark for valuing our lives.

One recent study asked the question, how much money do we really need to be happy?

‘Economist Angus Deaton and psychologist Daniel Kahneman, who has won a Nobel Prize for Economics, analyzed the responses of 450,000 Americans polled by Gallup and Healthways in 2008 and 2009. Participants were asked how they had felt the previous day and whether they were living the best possible life for them. They were also asked about their income. The authors found that most Americans — 85% — regardless of their annual income, felt happy each day. Almost 40% of respondents also reported feeling stressed (which is not mutually exclusive with happiness) and 24% had feelings of sadness. Most people were also satisfied with the way their life was going,’ indicating a good level of GNH.

Letting Go Of Materially Defined Success

If we want to know how to protect the value of life we can click here and hope to insure our families after death, but what if we made the most of life – right now – and enjoyed every sunset, every rose, every giggle that came out of our children’s mouths? What if we learned to measure happiness in different ways than the mass media would like us to – and instead of measuring our joy with our material toys, we measured it in the love we give others and are able to receive in return, or the fair and equitable treatment of all sentient being on this planet?

A simpler life brings more happiness. If you think of the times you were most happy in your life, it may be the first time you stepped behind the wheel of your first cherry-red convertible at sixteen, or when you got a promotion at work, but I suspect the truly profound moments of happiness really didn’t cost a thing – your baby’s first glance into your eyes, the hug from a friend during a hard time, or even your first kiss from your soul mate. Happiness in life is what we make of it – and to make life truly priceless, we don’t need an American Express Black Card.

About the Author

Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rob Brezny, Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.

This article originally appeared at Yoga For The New World.

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