Pathways to Wellness

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National happiness

Most countries measure their success in economic terms such as the gross domestic product. But not Bhutan, a tiny country tucked in the Himalayan mountains.

In the 1970s, Bhutan’s 17-year-old king concluded that happiness, not wealth, was most important to the people of his country. He ruled for 34 years and during that time he based his decisions on how much any particular option contributed to the “gross national happiness” of his people.

You might be tempted to conclude that gross national happiness is fine for a small country like Bhutan but not for larger, more developed countries. In 2008, the President of France asked two Nobel Prize winning economists to look into this matter.

The economists concluded that the health of people and the health of the environment are as important as economic measures. They proposed that living standards, health, and education; how people spent their time; the strength of social connections and relationships; the future of the environment; democratic participation and security all be measured.

What about Canada?  In 2008 an independent organization – the Canadian Index of Well-being Network – was established to look at the health and well-being of Canadians. Like their colleagues in France they too proposed that we should measure and report on the full range of social, health, environmental, and economic concerns of Canadians.

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