When I had a closer look at the first World Map of Happiness – posted earlier here – I noticed a deeply red coloured (=most happy) enclave on the southern border of China. It is the Kingdom of Bhutan, located on position 8 in the happiness ranking, far atop of the United States (23rd) or the UK (41st) or France (62nd). But this doesn’t come as a surprise. The King of Bhutan is known as the inventor of Gross National Happiness. In April 1987, Jigme Singye Wangchuck—the young monarch of Bhutan was being interviewed by the Financial Times. Asked about Bhutan’s development, which was moving at a snail’s pace compared with Nepal’s and Thailand’s, Wangchuck offered a reply that instantly entered the annals of Bhutanese legend. “Gross National Happiness,” he declared, “is more important than Gross National Product.”This invention apparently inspired a whole new approach in economics for evaluating the condition of the populace of a city, nation or indeed the whole world. This approach acknowledges the fact, that a favourable GNP doesn’t automatically lead to a more happy population. Inspired by Bhutan several other countries have developed their own Gross National Happiness Index. Nevertheless there is no agreed definition how to calculate the index which is very much based on subjective experience. According to Daniel Kahneman and others the indicator could be measured using a new technique called the Day Reconstruction Method (DRM), in which people are asked to recollect memories of the previous working day by writing a short diary. They are told to think of their day as a series of episodes in a film and are asked a series of questions about how they felt during each event or activity.
While western research is catching up, Bhutan is still leading the pack with its own Centre for Bhutan Studies.