This article is part of a series, On Happiness, examining what it means and how it might be achieved in the 21st century.
Understandings of happiness are shifting. More and more research is finding that we cannot spend our way to happiness. Increasing incomes do not necessarily lead to increasing happiness. Even in a country such as China, average incomes have increased fourfold since the 1990s while life satisfaction has decreased over the same period.
Research is also finding that happiness is less an individual matter and more a collective endeavour. The quality of our relationships with others is pivotal. These others include those closest to us (our immediate family and friends) as well as those unknown to us but with whom we comprise a society.
In a climate-changing world, this relational understanding of happiness also has to extend to our relationship with the planet on which our survival depends.
The shift in understanding happiness could not be better summed up than in the words of the first elected prime minister of Bhutan in 2008: