Monday, August 27, 2012

Happiness: Has the Gallup Organization been Hanging Out in Bhutan?

As you know the government of Bhutan has adopted Gross National Happiness as the appropriate measure of national well-being (rather than, say, oh, gross national product, GNP):
Like many psychological and social indicators, GNH is somewhat easier to state than to define with mathematical precision. Nonetheless, it serves as a unifying vision for Bhutan's five-year planning process and all the derived planning documents that guide the economic and development plans of the country. Proposed policies in Bhutan must pass a GNH review based on a GNH impact statement that is similar in nature to the Environmental Impact Statement required for development in the U.S.

The Bhutanese grounding in Buddhist ideals suggests that beneficial development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other. The four pillars of GNH are the promotion of sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance.
That's Bhutan, but I don't live there and chances are you don't either. But yesterday, just as I was coming out of my afternoon nap (one of the keys to my personal happiness, BTW) I got a phone call from a young lady who identified herself as being with the Gallup polling organization. She asked me if I'd be willing to answer a few questions and I agreed.

She may have mentioned the name of the survey, but I forget it. What I do remember is that the questions had to do with my life satisfaction. One of them, for example, was whether or not I'd experience a lot of happiness on the previous day. Yes, thank you very much. Had I laughed a lot? Yes. Had I experience stress? No. Did my job make full use of my best abilities? Hmmm, that's tricky given the trickiness of my life situation, but I said yes, sorta (but the sorta doesn't register).

I thought it was a rather unusual survey, but interesting. And this morning I remembered little Bhutan nestled away in the foothills of the Himalayas and decided to see if I could find out anything about that Gallup poll. Sure enough, I discovered the Well-Being News: Health Data, Well-Being Index, Workplace Wellness, Behavioral Economics and Gallup Daily: U.S. Mood.

So, how-come presidential politics isn't conducted around well-being?

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