We know, if we're honest, that what we get is just a temporary burst of happiness. It doesn't last. Before long, we're back where we started.
So what's the secret that really happy people know that the rest of us are searching for?
Dr Martin Seligman and his colleagues at the Positive Psychology Center of the University of Pennsylvania think they may have some answers.
They've even found that people who report positive emotions tend to live longer.
They've used science to spot the six 'virtues' that work long term and help us to blossom. So, here are those vital virtues that we can all aim for, knowing they can make us happier and healthier:and here's a few ways we can move nearer to them.
Courage: having the will to achieve even if there are difficulties. So don't give up when things get tough, put in the extra work and keep going: it's worth while.
Humanity: it's important to look out for other people and appreciate them. So why not ring your mother, email your friends and help out your neighbour.
Justice: being fair and thoughtful, doing things for the community as well as ourselves. It helps to look outside ourselves from time to time.
Temperance: have a little of what you fancy but know where to stop! It's good to be sensible with money, stop eating when we're full, think before we speak.
Transcendence: understanding that the world is bigger than we are. People who believe in some spiritual connections with others and with the wider universe tend to be happier. Enjoying life, with zest and enthusiasm, is a great way to find happiness.
Wisdom: adding skills and knowledge and using them sensibly helps us to thrive. Making sure we go on learning throughout life will make us blossom.
So let's all add some real happiness to our lives.
If you'd like to read more, go to SpeechContacts main website
You can even download a free iphone application at iHappiness
I write this Communication Blog
Frances Evesham: on the run around Europe for years, with only a husband, three children and a succession of opinionated cats to keep me out of trouble. Somerset stopped me in my tracks. Now I walk in the country and breathe sea air. I will get around to cleaning the house soon.
I've been a speech therapist, a professional communication fiend and a road sweeper. I sometimes work in the criminal courts to uphold fair questioning of people with special needs.
I smell the roses, lavender and rosemary as I cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other. Writing historical romances and books on communication leaves enough time to enjoy bad jokes and puns and wish I’d kept on with the piano lessons.