Why 'secrets' of happiness? Because when I ask people in conferences if anyone knows them, it's rare for anyone to suggest even one. They seem reasonable when someone points them out, but very few of us have them as a focus.

What the research says about the value of relationships

There's clear evidence from the range of research that building our relationships makes us happy. It makes an excellent focus to raise our happiness quotient.

George Vaillant, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School says 'Happiness equals love - full stop'. For an academic, that's strong language. Forty years ago Vaillant took over took over a study of Harvard men and women that's been running 70 years now. The study has given him evidence that 'our relationships matter more than anything else in the world'.

Ways to build our relationships

Dr John Gottman of the University of Washington provides some fully-researched ideas for building our relationships.

He has studied marriages for more than 30 years and can predict with 90 per cent accuracy whether newlywed couples will still be together after six years.

Gottman's research suggests that the ratio of positive and negative interactions is critical. Happy couples have about 20 postive interactions to one negative when talking together. Couples in stable, happy relationships had a ratio of 5:1 when they discussed something they disagreed about.

People in happy relationships encourage and support each other. They show affection, warmth and gratitude. They sort out differences diplomatically, with respect and a sense of humour. They don't stonewall, but focus on the conflict to get the relationship back on track. John Gottman describes contempt as 'like sulfuric acid' in a relationship.