Maria Shriver talks to Oprah about happiness: ‘It’s when a friend calls to say hi’

I’ve been following happiness expert Gretchen Rubin, reading her books and listening to her podcast Happier, and it’s really changed my life. She’s not your typical self help guru in that her advice is down-to-earth, practical and easy to implement. She talks about the little things, about how being connected with others and making small changes can make us happier, and how what makes us happy is different for everyone. (If you’re interested, watch this three minute video with Rubin in which she breaks it down.)

That’s why I was so interested in the new O! Magazine all about happiness. Isn’t that what we’re all striving for in life? This issue has an interview between Oprah and Maria Shriver that’s particularly good. I liked Maria’s very attainable definition of happiness as the joy found in moments like being with friends and family. Of course this is all stuff we’ve heard before but it’s something we don’t take the time to consider or appreciate. Maria is promoting her book, I‘ve Been Thinking… Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life. I got so much out of her interview with Oprah. She was particularly close with her late mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who passed in 2009, and Maria talked about dealing with her mother and father’s passing and the breakdown of her marriage, to Arnold Schwarzenegger, around the same time. She said she needed to stay strong for her children.

OW: You write about the losses you suffered in quick succession: your mother and your uncle Teddy in one month in 2009, your father in 2011, and also that year the breakup with your husband.
MS: Yes, it all brought me to my knees. I describe that period as “marinating in grief.”

OW: What got you through it?
MS: I have four children. I want them to see me as someone who can survive anything because that’s what they’re going to have to do.

OW: Is it important to talk about your pain?
MS: We’re a grief-illiterate nation. Listening to others and sharing the depths of our own suffering helps us feel seen. I want to do more of that, as I’ve begun with my new nonprofit, the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement.

OW: I’ve seen you become an even more solid friend over these last few years. You check in with me regularly just to see how I am.
MS: I’d depended so much on my mother, but after she died, I had to reach out more to friends and say things like, “Can I come over for dinner?”

OW: What does it mean to you to be happy?
MS: I call them “yippee!” moments. I feel them inside. They’re different now; they’re quieter. As we get older, we have to appreciate the less momentous things. My kids come over for dinner. Someone invites me somewhere. A person tells me I’ve helped them. It’s not Disneyland. It’s when a friend calls just to say hi and I realize how much we mean to each other.

[From O! The Oprah Magazine received via e-mail]

My parents are moving to Florida this month and I’m a little heartbroken. I’m so grateful to have lived in the same town as them for the last few years but that also means that it will be an adjustment not to have them close anymore. So I needed to read this, about how Maria found her footing after losing her mother. I’m so lucky my parents are still with us and that I have the kind of job where I can live anywhere. I have some choices to make soon, but reading interviews like this helps me know that I’m not alone and that it would help to reach out to friends. Sometimes you forget how much support there is around you.

Oh and Oprah defined happiness as serving others. She said “Service, I gotta say, is my biggest reward and brings me enormous happiness: surprising other people with unexpected, needed, and sometimes just-for-fun support.” You get a car!




photos credit: WENN, O! The Oprah Magazine, and Backgrid

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12 Responses to “Maria Shriver talks to Oprah about happiness: ‘It’s when a friend calls to say hi’”

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  1. LookyLoo says:

    She looks happy and much healthier than she has in a long time.

    • Alix says:

      She’s clearly gotten fillers — possibly a teeny bit too much, but they do help; her face had gotten very gaunt over the years, and she does look healthier now.

    • mk says:

      That was my reaction exactly – she really looks beautiful. Better than I’ve ever seen her look – maybe post-Arnold life is doing her good.

  2. Nev says:

    I’ve always loved her. Yayyy Maria.

  3. Christin says:

    Losing one or more people who were instrumental in your life is a gut punch. It changes your filter, and simple moments and things do become more valuable.

    Life is fragile and fleeting. And we can’t take material things with us. I completely get what she’s saying here about how it can change (simplify) your viewpoint.

  4. Keira aka coconut says:

    Huge fan of Gretchen Rubin here!

  5. adastraperaspera says:

    Really appreciate her perspective. So simple, yet so important!

  6. Valerie says:

    I didn’t really have an opinion on her until I learned one of my friends was good friends with her. She seems sweet.

  7. justme says:

    Can’t get on board with Maria Shriver. Privileged. Shills self-help books with zero qualifications.

    • Amy says:

      I don’t know much about her, but just heard her on the On Being podcast, and it was really eye opening. Especially about what it was like, really like, to be the niece of RFK and JFK.