Sunday, October 4, 2009

Gross National Happiness

Let's remember to stop and smell the roses.

Today when I was avoiding the inevitability of another day of domesticity, hiding in bed reading the paper with the telly on, I caught part of a program made by Michael J Fox, yes, vertically challenged actor of "Back to the Future" fame, sufferer of Parkinson's Disease. It was called "Adventures of an Incurable Optimist"

Now I am not an optimist. Natural born pessimist, that's me. Stress bunny. Glass half empty type of gal. I wish that I wasn't like that but it is hard to change.

Michael has had Parkinson's Disease for 20 years or so. There is no known cure. His attitude is that the disease is a fact but his response to it is a choice.

"Try to accept it; the extent it is fact, you don’t have a choice that you have it, but you have a thousand choices of how to respond to having it. It does not define you. You are still you. You may change physically for the worst, but you may positively change emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Inform yourself, take care of yourself, and roll with the punches"
Michael J Fox in an interview.

He doesn't feel sorry for himself. He believes that for every thing that Parkinson's Disease has taken away from him, another opportunity has come his way as a result. He celebrates life. I am guessing that he makes the most of the joys of each day that we often pass over in our hurry to get from point A to point B before C o'clock.

In the show he travelled to the small country of Bhutan in Southern Asia to investigate the concept of GNH (Gross National Happiness) which was instigated by the then King in 1972 as part of modernising Bhutan but retaining the country's Buddhist culture and spiritual values at the same time. Basically his belief is that modernisation is not solely reflected by economic values (ie money) The Government also focuses on preserving the environment and being responsive as part of this policy.

In 2006 Bhutan was named the happiest country in Asia (Business Weekly) In a survey in 2005, only 3% of the population reported being not happy (the rest was "happy" or "very happy") What do you think the result would be if that question was asked in Australia?

I have spent the day contemplating what I saw.

Firstly I applaud Michael J Fox for his mental attitude to what he faces and his appreciation for what he has. I believe that they (they being those scientific people who know these things) have said that having a positive attitude will not improve life expectancy in the face of disease. I'm not sure that I believe that. But at the very least, it would certainly improve your quality of life in the meantime. And Michael seems to be able to find the joy and happiness in all facets of his life in the face of his illness.

Secondly I think that I like the king of Bhutan. There is criticism of the GNH policy of course. It cannot readily be measured like Gross National Product but who cares?

Anything in this time of haste, tension and worry that helps us to slow down, that makes us stop and smell the gorgeous roses we are passing, that makes us leave the washing and give our kids some tummy raspberries has to be a good thing, right?

I don't think that I am a natural born optimist but I'm going to try harder. Because well-being and happiness is worth it, don't you think?


Tracy said...

great Post Tas! Thank you you started my day in a positive way :D

Carolyn said...

Ditto to what Tracy said.
I know that my line of work has made me appreciate my life more and helps me use the phrase "get over it". Which thus makes me a happier person. (can't be applied all the time but has helped me)
Have no idea if I'm optimist or pesimist.

zofia said...

Yes Tas! It dosn't take a lot to smile and have a giggle...I need to take this on board too. Thanks for your thought-provoking words.

Romi Jade said...

Fantastic post :)