Pamela’s Weekly Words of Wisdom: How Can We Measure Happiness?

Gross domestic product normally measures the well-being of a country: the health of its goods and services.  But the notion of well-being meaning economic well-being, is surely and steadily being overturned.

Starting with Bhutan, this government demonstrated unbelievable foresight by establishing a definition of gross national happiness.  They now send out surveys to measure it, and other countries, such as the UK, France and Brazil, are now following suit.  Many of them are not only refining definitions of what well-being is, but sending out surveys to determine if people are happy; and what might make them happy.

It is no surprise that some people might question the usefulness of this type of survey, but I would posit that even asking is a wonderful endeavor.  It lets people know that they are cared about—so much so, that the government would take the time to formulate and put forth a document capturing and measuring their hopes.  Even further, some cities are using it to inform their public policy.  This helps make our governments more responsive, and our communities safer and stronger.

Happiness is a product of economic freedom, human rights, basic survival, meaningful relationships, spirituality, and ideally, the dream of pursuing what you love.  May these examples continue to become the norm, so that we can live more healthy, fruitful lives.

Here are some of the exciting ways that these Happiness Measurements are taking place:

France performed a study in 2008, concluding that GDP couldn’t fully capture well-being.

Great Britain‘s Office of National Statistics is beginning to measure well-being by asking about happiness and satisfaction.

In Brazil, two impoverished cities took a survey and began creating more public parks in response to what people wanted.

Bhutan‘s king declared in 1972 that “Gross national happiness is more important than gross domestic product.”  They’ve done broad surveys to create a gross national happiness index.

Somerville, Massachusetts included a happiness survey as part of their census, and exploring how they can implement change.

Read more in The Christian Science Monitor: “Somerville, Mass. Aims to Boost Happiness.  Can It?

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