E is for Robert Emmons, Ph.D.

Sections of this topic

    In order for other people to grow deeper on their own spiritual path, I believe that we learn from others who have walked that path before us. Who I’m highlighting for E is Dr. Robert Emmons, whom many refer to as one of “the gratitude experts.” As a professor at the University of California, Davis, in the positive psychology movement, Dr. Emmons has researched the field of gratitude extensively. I refer to his book Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make you Happier as my “gratitude bible” because it covers the study of gratitude from a vast perspective as well as being validated through scholarly research.

    Through Dr. Emmons work on gratitude, I’ve grown deeper on my spiritual path. While I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with him as a student of gratitude, I don’t know personally what his spiritual practices are. However, in order to write such an incredible, life-changing work, I can only assume that he lives a grateful, inspired life. Here’s how his work around gratitude has helped me grow spirituality and I hope will impact you as well.

    Appreciate life more fully

    After reading his book, I realized the scientific data behind the importance of gratitude. Practicing and living it has multiple benefits for all of us not only emotionally and socially, but also physically and spirituality. This is when I decided to commit to embracing gratitude as one of my spiritual practices. When we can view the sacred working in our everyday lives and acknowledge it with grace and thanksgiving that is when we can experience life at a deeper place. We can appreciate life more fully as we know that God is working in us to grow more spirituality.

    Thank God often

    There is a chapter called Thanks Be to God: Gratitude and the Human Spirit. In this section he shares the deep historical roots regarding the tradition of giving thanks. “Where one finds religion, one finds gratitude. As long as people have believed in God, they have sought ways to express gratitude and thanksgiving to this God, the ultimate giver.” Gratitude is a universal commonality or underlying thread that all of the major world religions embrace.

    Thanking God is core to each faith for us to grown in holiness in whatever path we are taking. In fact in the word thanks is mentioned in the bible over 150 times. Many of these verses I’ve now used for guidance. Like, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you…. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

    Make gratitude vows

    He suggests many ways that we can embrace gratitude as a way of life. One such way, for those of us who are spiritually inclined, is the concept of making gratitude vows. This idea touched my heart and I knew exactly this is what I needed to do. I shared how to make vows in my Project GratOtude movement and will do so with you as well. He refers to gratitude vows as as a pledge or an oath to practice and live out gratitude. Making a vow is public commitment that you make before others. He says, “For those spiritually inclined, making a vow to God is serious business. If we made a vow to others and forgot about it, we’d be off the hook. but God’s hook is deeper. God does not forget. A vow to God carries greater moral weight and authority than a vow to a mere human.”

    I had a transforming experience of making gratitude vows to, for and with God. It is because of these vows that I made 2 1/2 years ago that Project GratOtude exists today. Two vows I made were to be “the great example” of gratitude and to “Return IT Backward” to those influential people in her life who have effected her work, like Oprah and Dr. Emmons.


    For more resources, see our Library topic Spirituality in the Workplace.


    Janae Bower is an inspirational speaker, award-winning author and training consultant. She founded Finding IT, a company that specializes in personal and professional development getting to the heart of what matters most. She started Project GratOtude, a movement to increase gratitude in people’s lives.