Only one of the seven dwarfs is Happy, which humorously tells us that many people are not.  

Add that to the fact this country is not high on the list of nations where people profess to be happy. The U.S. ranks 18th worldwide in measures of happiness, even though the Declaration of Independence affirms happiness as one of our most cherished goals.

Where you live can affect your well-being, as do economic and social factors. It should not be a surprise therefore that Time magazine devoted an entire recent issue to various methods designed to achieve happiness — a subject that should be of interest to all of us. Factors that influence happiness include social support, years of healthy life expectancy, GDP per capita income, generosity and freedom to make life decisions.

In a recent editorial in the New York Times, the author provided another solution. He suggested that to be happy you should think like an old person. Older people report higher levels of contentment or well-being than teenagers and young adults. It is a paradox of old age that instead of feeling worse about their age, seniors feel better. I would guess, however, that most everyone would prefer not to wait that long. There are other methods to consider and even an extremely complex mathematical formula for happiness.

Being mindful and meditating appear to be strategies designed to bring us joy, and while many people have a biased view of meditation, it is becoming a mainstream approach of reducing stress and improving mental well-being. Both are instrumental in making us happier.

Mindfulness — living in the present moment — allows an individual to become more highly productive and possibly improve relationships with others — one predictor of success and happiness. Mindfulness can enhance pleasure, whether it is emotional or sensual (food or touch or sound). Being mindful allows us to savor the sensation or experience completely; it extends pleasurable experiences all the more and makes experiences more satisfying.

According to Psychology Today, religion can be a path to happiness. Religion is related to well-being, and reasons include a sense of belonging, a sense of meaning in life and a greater ability to exercise self-control. One study found that people are more satisfied with their lives when they go to church, mosque or synagogue, because they build a social network within their congregation.

The Time magazine article noted that to experience more happiness each day you don't have to overhaul your life or spend a fortune. Instead, buy yourself bliss by spending more time on social bonding rather than possessions. Second is to bask in whatever is great about yourself rather than try to fix what is not. Third is to be generous with your time and money. Giving to charity brings more happiness than spending on yourself.

Another factor is becoming more grateful for the blessings you have. Gratitude allows people to report feeling content. One surprise is the mere act of smiling. It can cheer you up, although the reasons have yet to be discovered.

In a World Value Survey about general happiness that included more than 350,000 people in 50 countries, the following five factors in descending order have the strongest influence on our overall well-being:

• Family relationships and our close private life.

• Our financial situation.

• Our work, as something which gives our life purpose.

• Community and friends as a source of trust and belonging.

• Our health, especially for those suffering from severe illnesses, and most extremely in cases of mental disorders.

As indicated, family is most important in happiness. For example, going through a divorce has double the impact on one's level of happiness as losing 30 percent of one's income, and married people have been shown to live longer and to enjoy healthier lives. The survey tells us that true companionship and a sense of belonging are two of the most positive things that people can experience in our lives.

Despite being in 18th place, we are fortunate to live in the United States, as people who live in stable and peaceful countries are reported to be happier than those living in restricted societies. South Dakota and Vermont were tied for the nation's highest level of well-being in 2017. West Virginia reported the lowest level of well-being for the ninth year in a row.

Those of us with personal values are also shown to be happier; that includes have a positive philosophy of life. People who value their lives and appreciate what they have are known to be happier.

Max Sherman is a medical writer and pharmacist retired from the medical device industry. He has taught college courses on regulatory and compliance issues at Ivy Tech, Grace College and Butler University. Sherman has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge on all levels. Eclectic Science, the title of his column, will touch on famed doctors and scientists, human senses, aging, various diseases, and little-known facts about many species, including their contributions to scientific research. He can be reached by email at maxsherman339@gmail.com.