Quotes for Every Occasion: Life, Love, Inspiration, and More
Here are inspirational quotes about love, friends, family, body positivity, life, and even depression, and the science behind why words are so powerful and can make us feel so much better.
Why do people love quotes?
If you’re like a lot of people, you may turn to a favorite quote when you’re feeling depressed, broken-hearted or even in love and need a little inspiration or some quick motivation. They may be brief, but there’s power in those positive words, whether they come from someone famous or not so famous.
People who turn to motivational or inspirational quotes are already showing that they are open to improving their lives, says Robert Brooks, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School and coauthor of The Power of Resilience.
“Motivational or inspirational quotes, especially offered by well-known people, serve to bolster hope by conveying the message that problems can be overcome—even if the quotes themselves do not offer specific strategies on how to do so,” Brooks says. “In looking for such quotes people are seeking both to feel better and to be inspired.”
And sometimes—like when you’re in love, feeling happy, or you just want to feel inspired by other people—quotes can offer camaraderie, a feeling of connectedness, or may help crystallize your feelings into words.
They can also help you communicate how you feel to someone else, whether it’s a love note, you-can-do-it email, social media post, or inspiring graduation quote for a card. If someone already said it perfectly, why try to improve on perfection?
How quotes might affect your brain
There are large areas of the brain involved with language and those areas are deeply connected with the areas responsible for memory and emotions.
“So words can elicit powerful responses in the brain evoking strong memories and emotions,” says Andrew Newberg, MD, director of research at the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health, a physician at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, and co-author of Words Can Change Your Brain. “Positive words lead to beneficial changes in the brain, lowering stress, anxiety, and depression. Negative words can lead to detrimental changes causing stress and anxiety and impairing how nerve cells work.”
When studying the impact of words on the brain, Dr. Newberg says that working memory is key because that’s the amount we can hold in the brain for a short time.
“It turns out that we can only hold onto a few small chunks of information at any one time,” he says. “So a quote, especially when brief, takes advantage of our working memory limitations. It tells us what we need to know in a very short burst.”
These brief moments of positive thinking release neurotransmitters such as dopamine which make us feel strong, positive emotions, Dr. Newberg says. “A brief quote can elicit important memories and emotions that can lead people to more positive ways of thinking about things and can elicit important behaviors that are required to help make the person successful or reduce certain types of stress or anxiety.”
Reading just a quote or two at a time makes the message more meaningful, adds Dr. Newberg.
“It’s important to not just read the quote, but to then reflect on it and its importance in your life,” he says. “The more we repeat anything, or focus on anything, the more it becomes part of our beliefs and engrained in our brain’s functions.”
The key is to focus on the positive aspect of a quote because that triggers positive changes in the brain. And try to share the quote with others. “That reinforces the ideas from the quote in our own mind and also can potentially lead to positive effects in others,” he says.
Quotes can elicit strong emotions
“It is relatively easy to evoke powerful emotions through words, as they don’t start off neutral,” says motivational psychologist Martin Ford, PhD, professor and senior associate dean at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and author of Motivating Self and Others. “Rather, they start off already ‘tinged’ or ‘flavored’ or even saturated with emotion…. Emotions are thus automatically triggered by the words we hear and read.”
The power of those words can be further strengthened if we hear or read them from a person we respect. “For example, when a parent, or a mentor, or a respected public figure says something that is the equivalent of a motivational quote, the impact can be profound and enduring,” Ford says.
“Because emotional learning is so natural and ubiquitous, we intuitively know that we can find comfort in certain kinds of words communicated in certain contexts,” he adds. “For some, that includes venues in which they can read motivational quotes designed to inspire, heal, and elicit feelings of comfort and life meaning.”
Quotes for every occasion
Looking for a quote? Here are some options to consider:16 Quotes About Pain to Help You Get Through It
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The science of words
There isn’t a lot of research behind the power of quotes. But there are some studies that look at the impact of words.
One study, published in Psychological Science, suggests we like our sayings more when they’re rhythmic. Participants were presented with two versions of pithy expressions—one rhymed and one didn’t. The researchers found that people tended to believe that the more poetic adages seemed true.
“Our results suggest that rhyme, like repetition, affords statements an enhancement in processing fluency that can be misattributed to heightened conviction about their truthfulness,” the researchers wrote.
Another study, published in PNAS, found that language has the power to alter perceptions. Researchers asked participants to look at a picture of a familiar object—such as a chair, a pumpkin, or a kangaroo—through one eye. At the same time, the participants saw a continuous series of flashing, squiggly lines through their other eye.
Because the pattern was moving and high contrast, it essentially overtook the image in the other eye—a process called continuous flash suppression.
Immediately after looking at the flashing patterns and the suppressed image, the participants saw either the word for the actual suppressed object (“pumpkin” if they saw a pumpkin), the word for a different object (“chair” if they saw a pumpkin), or static.
The participants were then asked if they did indeed see an object. They were more likely to report they did if the word matched and less likely if the words didn’t match or there was no word at all. The findings suggest a deeper link between language and sensory perception than researchers originally imagined.
Benefits of quotes
“There’s a growing body of research that indicates that the presence of positive emotions—which are reinforced by positive messages—helps to nurture problem-solving and decision-making skills, our ability to engage in self-care, our hopefulness, and our compassion,” Brooks says.
But sometimes people need more than just encouraging words; they’re also looking for specific strategies to conquer problems. “While comfort can be found in positive messages, such comfort will be difficult to sustain unless the motivational messages also help guide us in solving the problems we face,” he adds.
Words that we read in quotes can communicate emotions and beliefs that can have a meaningful effect on how we see ourselves, other people, and the world around us, Brooks says. “A certain saying or quote can serve as a meaningful symbol—similar to a flag serving as a symbol—that encourages and sustains us as we strive to overcome adversity and become more hopeful and resilient.”
- Andrew Newberg, MD, director of research at the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health and a physician at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia and co-author of Words Can Change Your Brain
- Psychological Science: “Birds of a feather flock conjointly (?): rhyme as reason in aphorisms”
- PNAS: “Language can boost otherwise unseen objects into visual awareness”
- University of Wisconsin-Madison: “Language can reveal the invisible, study shows”
- Robert Brooks, PhD, clinical psychologist, Harvard Medical School, and author of 18 books including The Power of Resilience
- Martin Ford, PhD, motivational psychologist, professor and senior associate dean at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and author of Motivating Self and Others