Bhutan, a tiny and remote kingdom nestling in the Himalayas between India and China, was the first country in the world to pursue happiness as a state policy. Since 1971, the Himalayan kingdom has rejected Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the only way to measure progress. In its place, it has championed a new approach to development, which measures prosperity based on Gross National Happiness (GNH) and the spiritual, physical, social and environmental health of its citizens and natural environment.
Making happiness a goal of public policy is extraordinary–and incredibly difficult. There are problems with measuring happiness in a world so fundamentally unequal. And while happiness is a feeling that isn't hard to express (check out my all-time favorite "happiness hero" in the following video), it is very hard to quantify.
The rest of the world has been slow to catch on. But there have been some efforts in recent years to address the issue. In 2011, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution encouraging countries to measure their citizens' happiness and use that measure to help guide public policies. More recently, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has created guidelines for nations that want to measure well-being.
It’s obviously time to pay attention to the quest for happiness. What was once dismissed as a search for psychological gold at the end of a rainbow has now become serious. In an increasingly troubled and chaotic world, entire nations are beginning to embrace the idea that human happiness and well-being are more important than money in creating a desirable and sustainable future.
"All businesses should care about happiness," said Mark Williamson, founder and director of the London-based Action for Happiness Project, who joined Sachs in New York last week to release the latest report. "The happiness of a company's people is vital to their business success." Companies with happier staff outperform their competitors, Williamson said, and a happier staff is sick less often, more engaged, more creative, more productive and better at working collaboratively.
So how can you and I measure our own, personal happiness? One way is take on a little project for a few weeks, which involves tracking our positive and negative moods throughout the day, once every hour; and then at the end of each day, our sense of life satisfaction.
One way you can do this is to set alarms on your phone to go off at 60 minute intervals. To measure your state, you can use a simple 0 to 3 scale to the questions, “Are you feeling positive/negative emotions right now?”
— 0: not at all
— 1: a little
— 2: moderately
— 3: strongly
Input a number each for your positive state and negative state, and write down a word or sentence describing what you are doing at that time. You can also elaborate on the specific positive or negative emotion you are feeling.
For the purpose of tracking, it's useful to use categories such as “working,” “doing housework,” “socializing,” etc., when you're describing what you're doing. At the end of the day, write down your answer to, “How satisfied are you with your life?” using this scale:
— 7: Very satisfied
— 6: Moderately satisfied
— 5: Slightly satisfied
— 4: Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
— 3: Slightly dissatisfied
— 2: Moderately dissatisfied
— 1: Very dissatisfied.
Also write a sentence or two about your day. Maintain this regimen for a few weeks, then take a look at the trends that have emerged. Which activities make you happy; which activities make you unhappy? Which days are you the most satisfied with your life?
And finally, with what you've learned, what can you do to make your life happier?
The Happiness Workout includes basic, simple exercises that are incredibly easy to practice on a daily basis. They include exercises focused on Laughter and Breathing, Positive Thinking and Childlike Play. The slideshow below includes a few exercises you can try out if you want, and these videos contain more info about what i do.