Is Bhutan the Happiest Place in the World?

Thinley Yangzom. Photo by Geoffrey Oliver Bugbee.

In this mountain kingdom, health and family harmony are valued more than money.

Thinley Yangzom is an unusual case. She lives in a farmhouse that belongs to her mother in the Paro Valley of Bhutan. She was born in the same house.

“It is rare in Bhutan for young people to leave Bhutan, get educated, and return back home to help their families,” she says.

Getting an education

She went to Bangalore, India, to attend college and to work in a call center. Her English is good; she learned it in primary school. Most Bhutanese children are taught English along with their native Dzongkha. She returned to Bhutan to help her mother and grandmother with the farming. Soon after she moved back, she married a boy she grew up with.

Returning to family

“For me happiness is not only for myself, but also includes my family,” Thinley says. “If there are needs in my family and I can provide for them, that is what gives me satisfaction.” 

“Being human, I really can’t say that I have more happiness than another person. Human beings have desires, so one day you might think you are happier than another, but you are really not.” 

A multigenerational unit

Four generations—nine people—live in her house. She has one child, a 16-month-old boy named Doenkuen. Her father runs a small saw mill in the Paro Valley.

“I think we are happier than others in the world, because we are well looked after by the Bhutanese government,” Thinley says. “We are not worried about wars in our country, or being unsafe. The Bhutanese people don't live with this kind of worry. We have a lower poverty rate than other countries around us.

A self-sustaining family

“We try to be self-sufficient. Our alternative to having a lot of money is to work and be self-sufficient.  We are less dependent on money than we are on our agriculture.”

She grows rice, apples, chilies and potatoes for cash to a wholesaler who comes directly to their farmhouse. Her two cows provide milk for income and home consumption. She makes her own butter and cheese.

Health is the gateway to happiness

“If you are healthy, then you can accomplish all that you want to do in life. Health is priceless, and for me, that is happiness.

“If I have my health, I can work and help others. If you are not physically fit or not able to help another person in need, then you will be unhappy.”

She urges others in the world who seek a better life to appreciate and enjoy those with whom they share their days.

“If you are busy seeking more money, you won’t have time for your family or friends. If you can’t seek your goal of ‘more and more’ then you will suffer depression.”

For more on the Kingdom of Bhutan and the International Day of Happiness, see the April 2015 issue of Live Happy magazine.

 

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