Do not let their remote location or lack of wealth fool you! The Bhutanese people are some of the happiest individuals in the world. This short essay outlines why they can claim such a wonderful thing.
Based on the paper titled “Bhutanese Views on Happiness” by Misty Smith. Originally published on May 25, 2015, for PSY/225 at the University of Phoenix.
Bhutanese Views on Happiness
“Free from material pressures driving other societies, life in Bhutan is shaped by religion and culture. By promoting the happiness of others, people feel personal satisfaction—creating a national atmosphere of tranquility and harmony” (Journeyman Pictures, 2013). The government of Bhutan uses a gross national happiness formula to maintain their civilization. This formula is based on four pillars: conservation of the environment, the preservation of culture, good governess, and socio-economic development (Journeyman Pictures, 2013). Although happiness is not straightforward and is different for every individual, three factors can commonly be agreed upon in the quest for happiness: wealth or prosperity, good health, and friendship or companionship. However, how an individual interprets the three common factors widely varies.
Level of Happiness
The Bhutanese government conducted a survey of their citizens to see if they were happy. The results were surprising as 97% of the population stated that they were very happy with their lives (Journeyman Pictures, 2013). “Free from material pressures driving other societies, life in Bhutan is shaped by religion and culture. By promoting the happiness of others, people feel personal satisfaction—creating a national atmosphere of tranquility and harmony” (Journeyman Pictures, 2013). In the section of the Positive Psychology video entitled “A Culture of Contentment,” a mother explains that her happiness comes from the idea that she can help someone else, even if they are a complete stranger to her. Such a concept of compassion for others is mostly unheard of in American culture, where most Americans think daily about how they can move forward up the social scales.
Furthermore, in countries like the United States material objects are closely linked to how prosperous or happy the individual may be. However, in Bhutanese society, the basics of food, water, and shelter are often noted as enough material possessions to fulfill happiness. “As humans, we need decent shelter, a healthy environment, nutritious food, and clean water. These are four fundamental needs – and as such are prerequisites of human happiness” (Dalai Lama, 2012). The concept of simply having enough for survival may be a foreign concept for many Americans, who are often found to be competing with each other for material possessions.
However, do the material possessions Americans surround themselves with provide true happiness? Is the happiness a temporary feat that leads to wanting more? “…evidence compiled by psychologists and social scientists in recent years suggests quite clearly that material acquisitions have only temporary effects on what the call “mental flourishing.” Such studies suggest that after the initial excitement of a new purchase has worn off, our level of happiness quickly returns to its previous level” (Dalai Lama, 2012). Therefore, because Bhutanese society does not work in the same viewpoint as American society with material needs, fundamental needs provide them with true happiness and are at opposition with the American view of a ‘good life’.
On the other hand, Bhutanese society and American society have similar happiness models when it comes to health, family, and friends. It is a general consensus that being healthy can cause a positive emotional state, with the majority of individuals being happy for waking up every morning. Furthermore, most individuals would agree that having a healthy happy circle of friends and family helps with happiness and the view of having a ‘good life’.
In conclusion, the Bhutanese people are generally very happy and content with their lives. Their happiness comes from their deep seeded religious views of Buddhism, which teaches them that happiness comes from helping others, having their basic needs met, and having an inner peace. In contrast, American society is often found to be full of individuals that relate happiness to material objects beyond the basics. The American mentality of placing happiness in relevance to wealth often leads to fleeting happiness that individuals often try to create by achieving more material goods. However, a common form of happiness in Bhutanese and Americans in families and friends.
Dalai Lama, H.H. (2012). Beyond Religion. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Publishing Company.
Journeyman Pictures (2013, August 21). Positive Psychology [Video file]. Retrieved from Films on Demand website: http://digital.films.com/play/PND3YU