Our society has made being rich and famous the gold standard of what really matters in life. A study about happiness from a Harvard University Study of Adult Development by Dr. Robert Waldinger lifts the curtain on real happiness.

Accumulating lots of wealth, working hard for a high level title and being named to any "hall of fame" are not the answer.

It is about something we all know, we all intuitively understand, that the key to being healthy and happy is in personal relationships.

The world has changed in many respects for the better. There are numerous ways to climb the mountain of happiness. No longer are women looked at as if they are sad spinsters. It is okay to be single or married and still be accepted in society. And we can find the careers that bring us joy rather than just take a job because, well, just because.

Here are 4 important ways to consider when you look at your own personal happiness quotient:

  • What is your loneliness quotient? Being lonely is super different that spending time alone. Many people crave lots of time with others yet never really connect in a meaningful way. Loneliness can be toxic and is a major cause of both depression as well as chronic physical illnesses. You are the only one who can truly check your internal emotional clock to see how connected you feel with people.
  • Quality beats quantity hands down. Having a few good friends you can call on and know thy will be there is much more important to health and well-being than getting a ton of likes on Facebook or birthday wishes. Too many of us judge who we are by how well we are known. In fact, I know people who even when they are the picture of health worry about how many will show up at their funeral. Sad but true.
  • Having just a few you can depend on. Knowing when the days are dark (and they will be no matter how happy you are generally) that you have one or two people you can call and know thy will be there is actually more important for your health than your cholesterol level. This is a two way street. You can count on another and they can count on you is the perfect equation for sustained happiness.
  • Making peace with your family. This is one of the most important areas often left off lists about how to be really happy. Please think about it this way. Parents: they are the only ticket to this planet and thus have a vital place in your emotional life. Love them or hate them, you are much better off if you make peace with them when you are an adult. And siblings: they share a special place via genetic composition and often have missing parts of your own personal relationship puzzle if you are willing to talk with them and not just stay on a superficial or even negative level.

One more thing about family: it is the most powerful and important area to explore and put into proper context to heighten your happiness quotient for the long haul.

Happiness means so many different things to people. However, relationships are at the foundation of health and well-being. No amount of money or fame can take the place of the 4 key ways just discussed to optimize happiness, especially at those times when you need to reach out and touch someone to feel positive in your life.