Manual In Pursuit: Of Happiness and Good Government

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In Pursuit : Of Happiness and Good Government

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Current Affairs. Historical Fiction. In particular, Bhutan surveys its citizens in nine key aspects of happiness :. The use of a "gross national happiness" index has been a policy of Bhutan now for nearly four decades.

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As a result of a more recent initiative, the government of Victoria, British Columbia has been participating in a Happiness Index Partnership comprising the Victoria Foundation, United Way, the University of Victoria, and several local and provincial government agencies to undertake a well-being survey. Among the findings :.

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Most residents of Greater Victoria experience relatively high level of wellbeing. These high levels of wellbeing are buoyed by strong social relations, feelings of connectedness to community, and relatively low levels of material deprivation for most members of the community. The primary factors that limit a greater sense of wellbeing across the population are time stresses and the challenges of living a more balanced life. There are, however, significant populations who experience lower levels of wellbeing—particularly low-income earners and single parents. These groups also face substantial time stresses but are less likely to enjoy the material and social supports that help to buttress the effects of the stress on their sense of wellbeing.

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While the overall findings were positive, only 26 percent of the Victoria respondents reported that they spent most or all of their time in a typical week doing things that they enjoyed, according to a summary report. About the same portion reported that "not much" of their time was spent on enjoyable activities.

Only 31 percent described their lives as "not very" or "not at all" stressful. Some scholars see the study of happiness as a branch of economics, or at least a critical examination of traditional macroeconomics. However, it may be time to admit that this part of the American experiment in democracy has failed.

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However, our success in the pursuit of happiness has been far less impressive. The lack of translation of wealth into happiness is not unique to the United States. A review more than scholarly studies relating wealth and happiness confirmed a growing consensus among researchers that wealth doesn't bring happiness.

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Once our basic needs are met, our happiness depends far more on the quality of our personal relationships than on our income or wealth. No amount of additional wealth can offset our basic need for positive relationships with friends and family, and perhaps most important, our need to be treated with equity and justice within our society. Equally important, our happiness depends on our having a clear sense of purpose and meaning in life.

Without purpose, there is no right or wrong, good or bad; no amount of wealth can give meaning to our thoughts and actions. We are multidimensional beings — physical, social, and spiritual; happiness requires a life of harmony and balance within the whole of our being. All we have to do to understand this is stop and think about what really makes us happy or keeps us from being happy.