Cultivating gratitude is spiritual


The older I get, the more reflective I become as one season fades into another. Not only the seasons of the year but the seasons of life.

A younger version of me became excited and a little anxious in anticipation for one season to end and the next to begin. During the cold and rainy springs, I longed for the warmth of the summer sun and longer days; while in the dog days of summer, I longed for the cool autumn winds and shorter days.

As my years pile up, I try to embrace each day of each new period just as it is; to savor, enjoy, and be grateful for the beauty and uniqueness of every day. And, as my own season of life drifts from summer to autumn, and I witness the aging and deaths of family and friends, I am compelled toward gratitude for the life I have, all the people that have touched my life, and the experiences and opportunities that have come my way.

Experiencing more decline and loss, I find that this cultivating of gratitude offsets the anxiety, grief, and sadness that comes with this life. Studies reveal that the positive effects of gratitude improve your health and well-being.

In a Forbes article for Thanksgiving, Luis E. Romero wrote that “gratitude might be the ultimate spiritual practice.” He draws this from an article written by Deepak Chopra “Sowing Seeds of Gratitude to Cultivate Wellbeing.” Romero writes that Chopra “draws a powerful equivalency between physical and mental wellbeing resulting from gratitude and the development of a higher spirituality,” and he explores this through the etymology of the word:

“…which comes from the Latin root gratus, meaning ‘pleasing; welcome; agreeable.’ Gratus is also the root of related terms such as grace, gratuity and gratis, all signifying positive moods, actions and ideas. This is because of its …root, gwere, meaning ‘to praise, to celebrate; to be in contact with the Divine.’ In other words, being grateful is equivalent to feeling the presence of the Divine in our lives. It is the same as being in a state of bliss. It allows us to see value, virtue and benefit in everything. In this regard, gratitude can be considered the antidote to many forms of suffering. Therefore, it might also be, in its own right, an actual form of spirituality.”

Many spiritual traditions have a practice of gratitude, which can be as simple as acknowledging whom and what you are grateful for.

On my birthday this year, I wanted to list for my 96-year-old mother 61 things for which I am grateful. This activity resulted in something less like a list and more like a tree with its many branches. Quickly, and from the beginning, I understood that each item for which I am grateful spawned a dozen other things for which I am also grateful. Such as: I am grateful for having two wonderful parents. This statement made me reflect that I am grateful for living in a country that allowed both of my parents’ families to emigrate so that my parents could eventually meet and build a life together in America. Consequently, my parents were both children in the U.S. Depression of the 1930s and were positively affected by the U.S. government programs that helped people to survive those hard times, for which I am also grateful.

Well, you can see how being grateful for one thing, leads to countless other things to be thankful for.

This cultivation of gratitude becomes an exercise in hope. It reinforces the idea of the interdependence of all things and that what we do and think today has consequences for others now and in the future. It becomes part of our collective consciousness, in which loving and being grateful matters.

As we turn the corner at the beginning of this hot summer and the longest days begin to shorten again, I am grateful for the coolness of shade trees, fresh air, clean water to drink, and, in general, for the kindness of strangers and neighbors. As the director of Andrews House, I am grateful for the multitude of caring people who live out their values and offer to volunteer to help their neighbors in need.

Mel Corroto is not a pastor, but she works with many pastors and church communities in her role as director of Andrews House in Delaware.

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