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“Good government obtains, when those who are near are made happy, and those who are far off are attracted.” ~Confucius

This morning a wonderful friend texted me, wishing me “lots of happiness on this International Day of Happiness” and I totally rolled my eyes into the back of my head. I was like, “Really? That’s a thing? We get just one day to focus on happiness? What’s that about?” Well, I did a little research and it just so happens that the International Day of Happiness is kind of a big deal (and originates from a place where the residents refer to themselves as “Dragon people”).

On July 28, 2013, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution proclaiming March 20 as International Day of Happiness and acknowledging happiness as “a fundamental human goal.” The resolution was created as a result of the achievements of the Kingdom of Bhutan and its Gross National Happiness Initiative which prioritized the contentment of a people over product.

It was in 1972 that the phrase “Gross National Happiness” was offered as an offhand comment by Bhutan’s fourth Dragon King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Just as one would expect from anyone with a title that cool, he wanted to express his dedication to develop an economy devoted to Bhutan’s cultural and spiritual values rather than the western ideals symbolized by gross national product. He wanted government to promote the happiness of his people.

Thanks to the pioneering work of Dragon Kings, happiness is now on the global development agenda and the concept of GNH has influenced a modern political happiness movement. Through the significant work of western and eastern scholars, economists and politicians, what was once a casual comment has developed into a socioeconomic development model.

How has the meaning of GNH shifted in Bhutan over the last four decades? The current Dragon King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk (who, in addition to his cool title, also wears a raven crown), had this to say:

Today, GNH has come to mean so many things to so many people but to me it signifies simply – Development with Values. Thus for my nation today GNH is the bridge between the fundamental values of kindness, equality and humanity and the necessary pursuit of economic growth. GNH acts as our National Conscience guiding us towards making wise decisions for a better future.

Okay, so I take back the eye rolling. I find inspiration in Bhutan’s example and in knowing that places such as Singapore, Dubai, South Korea, Canada, and the United Kingdom are working with their own models of GNH. In the United States, Seattle, Washington is leading the charge with their happiness index initiative. I find it encouraging that the International Day of Happiness exists and that organizations all over the world are focusing energy on the well-being of all people. And most of all, I love knowing that Dragon Kings are actually a thing in 2015. Makes me happy!

~Storm Arcana (415) 260-2903 / stormantic@gmail.com

Photo credit: Kidu Foundation.