May 10 2 Comments

How do you rate your happiness?

Happiness in a refugee camp in Kachin State, Burma. Photo by Leah.

Some weeks ago, while I was in Rangoon, Burma, I had dinner with two people from Kachin State. While feasting on yummy Kachin food, the lady, Grace, talked about her dreams and fears for the future. 

She has grown up in one of the world’s poorest, and most oppressed nations. She is from an ethnic minority that has been discriminated greatly. Now we were talking about the changes coming to the nation and how that will affect the normal people on the grass roots. 

Grace was worried about the greed she saw—in her own people, and in the thousands who are waiting to start investing in the international community.

“You know, I am not so sure that we want to increase our Gross National Product (GNP),” she said. “Are we so sure we will be happier if we are richer?” 

She continued: “I would like it like it is in Bhutan. They don’t have GNP there. They have GNH? Do you know what that stands for? Gross National Happiness.” (I have no idea if this is true or not. I have not bothered to check because I like the idea so much that I will be disappointed if it is not true.)

“And isn’t it so much better to measure people’s happiness instead of how much money they have? Wealth is not always what makes people happy.”

Said she. Who has been poor her whole life, and who now was looking at the prospect of more wealth. She had understood something very valuable. I hope her country listens to her. And that the rest of the world will too.


  • raptin says:

    Hi Oddny

    We often see Burma these days as an example of a country which has introduced an alternative scale to measure peoples happiness. I’m not sure how representative the results are in a country where a military regime is in power. As far as I know, no other country has a similar ‘scale’ so it’s quite difficult to compare on the one hand and on the other hand, what happens if someone wants to say the opposite? All in all, I firmly believe that an alternative index based on happiness and health, is a very good idea and something we should think about more in the rest of the world.


  • Rick Granger says:

    It’s absolutely true! Designed in 1974 as a measure for – well, happiness. I love it!