I am an avid follower of Maria Shriver’s Sunday newsletter, so I was thrilled to hear that she was writing a book, “I’ve Been Thinking: Reflections, Prayers and Mediations on a Meaningful Life.” I learned that she was going to make available to some of her followers an early edition of the book so that we might read, share our thoughts and comment on social media. I answered some questions, submitted my application with little assurance that I might be selected…but to my great surprise, I was!
This book has challenged and inspired me to truly consider what a meaningful life is for me, and given me the building blocks to work towards one. I now find myself choosing to live in the present, not regretting the past nor worrying about the future. Without her inspirational and motivational words, I am not sure if I would have begun this journey.
I am also beginning to see the role faith plays in a meaningful life; as the root of fortitude, it brings calmness and stability to an often unpredictable and even at times chaotic life.
One of the chapters that was most inspiring to me was “The Power of Gratitude.” I learned that making a daily, conscious effort to be grateful makes you happier and more hopeful. Gratitude reduces the output of stress hormones, primarily cortisol, during challenges and crises. Gratitude also strengthens social bonds and fosters feelings of love. For some, gratitude comes naturally, but for others, a daily gratitude practice is needed.
When I wake up in the morning, one of my first thoughts is: “What am I grateful for?” Each day is different, but it usually centers around health, family, faith, and the work I do. I am finding this a great positive way to begin my day.
So, I thought to myself: Ryan needs to have a daily gratitude practice. For him, waking up would not be the best time, so we decided to have our gratitude practice during breakfast. I initially explained to him why this was going to be one of our daily habits and that, instead of giving up something for Lent, we would be doing this. It was a little rough from the start but as he began to see how much he had to be thankful for, I could see that he enjoyed it more.
Our plan is to continue beyond Lent and have this as one of our morning routines. I think that a gratitude practice is an invaluable tool for both children and adults. Try it out and see what you think!