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12 Thankful Quotes To Add Gratitude To Your Life

In the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life, it can be hard to find time to take stock of the things we have to be grateful for. The Thanksgiving holiday is an opportunity to pause and reflect on gratitude, “the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.” The following quotes remind us to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” for things we might otherwise overlook and to express this feeling not just for one day out of the year, but as often as possible.

1.

Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people. Now our minds are one.

—Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address, 1993

harmony

American Thanksgiving is a celebration and memorial of an autumn feast in 1621 where the Puritans at the Plymouth Colony in what is today Massachusetts broke bread with the Wampanoag (Wôpanâak) people. For many Native Americans today, Thanksgiving is a difficult holiday that recalls subsequent centuries of persecution and genocide by European settlers and their descendents. This Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Thanksgiving Address, inspired by traditional prayer of various tribes, is a reminder to take this history into account during the holiday. The Address expresses a desire for people to live in harmony, meaning “agreement; accord; harmonious relations” with each other and the natural world.

2.

I had been so accustomed to fixating on the past and future that my new appreciation for the here and now felt extraordinary. I didn’t have to fantasize about being elsewhere anymore. As a result, I began to feel immense gratitude for everyday objects and experiences.

—Erika L. Sánchez, Crying in the Bathroom: A Memoir, 2022

extraordinary

Gratitude is a feeling that grows when we live with awareness and attention to the present moment. As we see in this quote and those that follow, this feeling of thanks for the place and time we find ourselves in currently makes the ordinary extraordinary. While we often think of the word extra as meaning “more” or “additional,” in the word extraordinary it means “beyond,” from the Latin extrā. Extraordinary, as used in this quote from the poignant memoir by writer and poet Erika L. Sánchez, literally translates to “beyond the usual,” which is how she describes her newfound “appreciation for the here and now”

3.

Thank you for these tiny
particles of ocean salt,
pearl-necklace viruses,
winged protozoans:
for the infinite,
intricate shapes
of submicroscopic
living things.

—Marilyn Nelson, “Dusting,” 1993

protozoans

This poem by acclaimed American poet Marilyn Nelson is an expression of gratitude for the most miniscule aspects of the natural world, which are easy to overlook because they are so tiny. She even mentions her gratefulness for protozoans, “any of a diverse group of eukaryotes that are primarily unicellular.” The word protozoan is made up of two combining forms: proto-, meaning “first” or “earliest form of,” and -zoa, meaning “organisms.” Protozoans are some of the earliest forms of life on Earth.

4.

We walk on starry fields of white
And do not see the daisies;
For blessings common in our sight
We rarely offer praises.
We sigh for some supreme delight
To crown our lives with splendor,
And quite ignore our daily store
Of pleasures sweet and tender.

—Ella Wheeler Wilcox, “Thanksgiving,” 1896

splendor

Another poem that calls us to take time to be grateful for the aspects of nature we may not always notice is “Thanksgiving” by prolific spiritual poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox. She describes how people wish for splendor, “brilliant or gorgeous appearance, coloring, etc.; magnificence,” but ignore everyday beauty like a field of daisies.

5.

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.

—Thorton Wilder, The Woman of Andros, 1930

conscious

The importance of making time for gratitude is emphasized in this quote from playwright and novelist Thorton Wilder. According to Wilder, being conscious, or “fully aware of or sensitive to something,” of what we have to be grateful for is part of what makes us feel “alive.” Here, he is using the word “treasures” to refer not to material wealth and riches but rather to love and friendship.

6.

For my part, I am almost contented just now, and very thankful. Gratitude is a divine emotion. It fills the heart, but not to bursting; it warms it, but not to fever.

—Charlotte Brontë, Shirley, 1849

divine

Often, gratitude is connected to spiritual or religious feeling. Victorian author Charlotte Brontë, best known for her novel Jane Eyre (1847), alludes to this in this quote from her novel Shirley. She describes gratitude as divine, a word that can mean both “extremely good; unusually lovely” and “of or related to a god,” “religious; sacred.”

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7.

Quick, quick, ask heaven of it, of every mortal relation, / feeling that is fleeing, / For what would the heart be without a heaven to set it on? / I can’t help thinking no word will ever be as full of life as this world, / I can’t help thinking of thanks.

—”Slant,” Suji Kwock Kim, 2007

heaven

This quote from the poem “Slant” by Korean American poet and playwright Suji Kwock Kim also alludes to the spiritual nature of gratitude and attention to the goodness of everyday life. She describes “this world” as a kind of heaven, “a place or state of supreme happiness.” In this poem she specifically celebrates Asian people in New York and how she is grateful for their community, which makes the world “full of life.”

8.

We know that the life that has gratitude at its center is very different from the life that doesn’t have gratitude at its center. This gives me a chance to complete my life by saying thank you … We are thankful for the grace and the community and the support and the life of those who can keep their courage and their hope even in the midst of so much despair.

—Don Saliers, professor of theology, On Being, 2004

complete

In this interview with Krista Tippett, Methodist pastor and theologian Don Saliers describes gratitude as critical to living a good life, which is a sentiment that can be embraced by anyone regardless of spiritual belief. Specifically he says “saying thank you” is how he complete[s] his life, a verb that can mean both “to make whole or entire” and “to make perfect.” Here, Saliers emphasizes his gratitude for those who support others even in difficult moments.

9.

Often, too, our own light goes out, and is rekindled by some experience we go through with a fellow-man. Thus we have each of us cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flames within us.

—Albert Schweitzer, Memoirs of Childhood and Youth, trans. C. T. Campion, 1949 [1924]

rekindled

Another theologian who has a universal message of gratitude is Albert Schweitzer, who was a Lutheran minister. He earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his text “Reverence for Life,” a basic tenet of his system of ethical philosophy. Given his religious and philosophical orientation, he wrote quite a lot about the importance of gratitude, especially in this quote where he writes about how our hope and faith can be rekindled by others. Rekindled literally means “to ignite again,” but it is often used figuratively to mean “to excite, stir up, or rouse anew.”

10.

Continue
To let gratitude be the pillow
Upon which you kneel to
Say your nightly prayer
And let faith be the bridge
You build to overcome evil
And welcome good

—Maya Angelou, “Continue,” 2006

faith

Celebrated poet Maya Angelou is explicit about the spiritual nature of gratitude in this excerpt from her 2006 poem “Continue.” She describes how gratitude is essential to having faith, a word with many meanings including “confidence or trust in a person or thing” or “belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion.” In her view, gratitude is at the bedrock of faith, which is needed to “overcome evil and welcome good.”

11.

I hope it is not pompous to call the chief idea of my life; I will not say the doctrine I have always taught, but the doctrine I should always have liked to teach. That is the idea of taking things with gratitude, and not taking things for granted.

—G. K. Chesterton, The Autobiography of G. K. Chesterton, 1936

doctrine

G. K. Chesterton was a prolific writer popular in the early 1900s. In this quote from his autobiography, published the year of his death, he describes how “taking things with gratitude, and not taking things for granted” was his personal doctrine, “a particular principle, position, or policy taught or advocated.” In a general sense, a doctrine is a belief that one uses to guide one’s actions.

12.

Cherokee people say otsaliheliga to express gratitude. It is a reminder to celebrate our blessings and reflect on struggles—daily, throughout the year, and across seasons.

—Traci Sorell, We Are Grateful: Otsaligeliga, 2018

blessings

There are many words, actions, and prayers one can take to express gratitude in different faith traditions. Our final quote comes from the Cherokee (Anigiduwagi) writer Traci Sorell. She describes the Cherokee word otsaliheliga as a way to “celebrate our blessings,” a word that here means “a favor or gift bestowed by the Creator, thereby bringing happiness. As she notes, this is not a sentiment to be expressed not just on Thanksgiving but “daily, throughout the year, and across seasons.”

Giving thanks doesn’t just make others feel appreciated, but it makes us feel good, too, as these quotes remind us. Sometimes it can be hard to find the right words to share how you feel, but this article on Meaningful Ways to Express Your Gratitude has some suggestions you can use—and the Thanksgiving holiday is a perfect opportunity to practice.

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