Gratitude seems to have become trendy in recent years. The intense focus on gratitude lists, journals, books and blogs could lead you to think that we're only now realizing the value of counting our blessings here in the 21st century.

Actually, the value of gratitude has been around a long time – since the beginning of time, some would say, if you include biblical references to the significance of giving thanks.

While gratitude is "the greatest of virtues," as Cicero put it, all the current hype creates a contemporary risk – the potential for practicing gratitude solely as a means to improving one's own sense of well-being – and thereby relegating an "attitude of gratitude" to more buzzword than belief.

The most important aspect of gratitude is that it spurs action – that it compels us to go outside ourselves to express our gratitude in a way that makes a difference in someone else's life.

The Pilgrims did exactly that. They put their gratitude into action by hosting a feast of thanksgiving – and invited honored guests – and their means of expressing their gratitude has become a beloved American tradition.

There's a lot to think about when it comes to expressing gratitude. As you take a break from your online degree program to reflect and prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, here are some thoughts on gratitude from some great minds.

Happy Thanksgiving from Saint Leo's Center for Online Learning!

"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it
is like wrapping a present and not giving it."
– William Arthur Ward, writer, 1921-1994

"Silent gratitude isn't very much use to anyone."
– Gertrude Stein, novelist, poet, playwright, 1874-1946

"Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other."
– Randy Pausch, computer science professor, author of "The Last Lecture," 1960-2008

"Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the
expression of gratitude."
– Albert Schweitzer, doctor, missionary, 1875-1965

"Let gratitude be your pillow upon which you kneel
to say your nightly prayer."
– Maya Angelou, poet, civil rights activist, 1928-2014

"There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.
–Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist 1879-1955

"Appreciation can make a day – even change a life.
Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.

– Margaret Cousins, suffragist, 1878-1954

"The best way to show my gratitude is to accept everything,
even my problems, with joy."

– St. Teresa of Kolkata, nun, missionary, 1910-1997

"If the only prayer you ever say in your life is 'thank you,'
it will be enough."

– Meister Eckhart, German philosopher, 1260-1328

"As we express our gratitude,
we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words,
but to live by them."

– John F. Kennedy, president, 1917-1963

Image credits: Everett Historical/Shutterstock; Olga Danylenko/Shutterstock; Lemuel Butler/unsplash; Jake Thacker/unsplash; Kalen Emsley/unsplash; Samantha Sophia/unsplash; Ray Hennessy/unsplash; Hieu Le/unsplash; David Schap/unsplash; cynoclub/Shutterstock; Anthony Correia/Shutterstock