A couple of weeks ago, I came across this article in The Guardian about whether mindfulness can be legitimately integrated into society. In the UK, there is currently an All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry on Wellbeing Economics, otherwise known as the Parliamentary Wellbeing Group. This Inquiry is exploring how wellbeing processes can influence budget allocations, and whether a values shift can bring non-material factors into the political discourse. Formed in March 2009, it exists to:
– Provide a forum for discussion of wellbeing issues and public policy in Parliament;
– Promote enhancement of wellbeing as an important government goal;
– Encourage the adoption of wellbeing indicators as complimentary measures of progress to GDP;
– Promote policies designed to enhance wellbeing.
This is an exciting development because it means that principles of wellbeing such as consciousness and mindfulness have proven to be so compelling in the personal lives of many that they are making their way into public processes.
For too long, our wellbeing has been the domain of the private sphere, and the public sphere has retained the values of competition, survival of the fittest and material gains.
One nation-state that has espoused the importance of wellbeing in public policy is Bhutan, which has aspired to gross national happiness since the 1970s. The Bhutanese culture is based on Buddhist ideals that see material and spiritual growth occurring alongside one another. Gross National Happiness (GNH) is based on the following four ideals: sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment and the establishment of good governance. The GNH Index provides an overview of performance across nine areas: psychological wellbeing, time use, community vitality, cultural diversity, ecological resilience, living standard, health, education, good governance.
It seems that this approach could be beneficial to all public organisations, including corporations and governments. We know that happy people are better workers, and better workers make better decisions, and better decisions create a positive future. So let’s start at the beginning, with making people happy.