Adopt a Local Happiness Index


While running the business Carrboro Creative Coworking I spent a lot of time on creative problem solving. Many of my ideas reflected the challenges we were experiencing locally. One was the financial inequity around us.

What if we measured our economic situation differently? How would we act then?

In 1972 the former ruler of Bhutan King Jigme Singye Wangchuck introduced the concept of Gross National Happiness. It’s goal is to measure quality of life in more holistic terms than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Instead of focusing on growth as the primary metric, as GDP does, the GNH uses the following formula:

Happiness = Economic + Environmental + Physical + Mental + Workplace + Social + Political Wellness

Here are some explanations of each part of that formula from the first Global Gross National Happiness Survey.

  • Economic Wellness: measured by direct survey and statistical measurement of economic metrics (consumer debt, average income to consumer price index ratio, income distribution, etc.)
  • Environmental Wellness: measured by direct survey and statistical measurement of environmental metrics (pollution, noise, traffic, etc.)
  • Physical Wellness: measurement of physical health metrics (severe illnesses, etc.)
  • Mental Wellness: measured by direct survey and statistical measurement of mental health metrics (usage of antidepressants, rise/decline of psychotherapy patients, etc.)
  • Workplace Wellness: measured by direct survey and statistical measurement of labour metrics (jobless claims, job change, workplace complaints and lawsuits, etc.)
  • Social Wellness: measured by direct survey and statistical measurement of social metrics (discrimination, safety, divorce rates, complaints of domestic conflicts and family lawsuits, public lawsuits, crime rates, etc.)
  • Political Wellness: measured by direct survey and statistical measurement of political metrics (quality of local democracy, individual freedom, and foreign conflicts, etc.)

You may find some similarities with this and the Triple Bottom Line. I find the lack of the word profit from this happiness formula to be telling. It’s not to say that profit is not important. But in our age of the Shock Doctrine and slowing global economic power each of us needs to understand our economies in a more holistic way.

I believe each of our Cities and Towns should formally adopt a Local Happiness Index. There is precedent. It could be a version of the Gross National Happiness Index. By using the formula above our leaders can have a codified set of information and statistics to of guide us into the future.

We must work to measure with as much accuracy as possible the entire economic picture of our community. Using only old tools and established wisdom will not serve us well. It’s obvious we have more than one way of looking at the world. To honor that we must respond to the data around us with a clear plan that prioritizes happiness as something we all want.

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