A viable philosophy or government propaganda? Bhutan is often praised for measuring its worth by citizens’ happiness alongside its economy, but can a country really calculate happiness—and if so, how?

I’m meandering along the world’s friendliest road. Hand-painted boulders remind drivers to “peep peep, don’t sleep,” and, a few hundred meters later, “mountain of pleasure, if you drive with leisure.” And instead of saying ‘back off’, the bumper sticker of the truck in front of us politely reads: “Don’t kiss me.”

Bhutan is famously the only country in the world to rank Gyalyong Gakid Palzom, or Gross National Happiness (GNH), above GDP. Everything—from governance and economic development to cultural preservation and environmental conservation—is decided according to this holistic tenet, designed to measure and protect the collective happiness and wellbeing of the population. When the UN General Assembly passed the resolution in 2011, it praised Bhutan and urged other members to follow suit.

But how does a country measure happiness and what’s it like to live that philosophy?