Oprah's Latest Book Is All About Getting Happier

According to her latest book, happiness isn't the end goal, the journey to "happier-ness" is.

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December 04, 2023

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Photo by: Harpo, Inc./Huy Doan

Harpo, Inc./Huy Doan

We've all read plenty of self-help books on how to get happy, but what if happiness isn't the most realistic or best goal? In Oprah Winfrey's latest book co-authored with Harvard professor Arthur C. Brooks, Build the Life You Want, happiness isn't the objective — the journey to feeling happier is.

In Build the Life You Want, the journey to "happier-ness," as Oprah and Brooks refer to it, can be broken down into four components: family, friendship, meaningful work and faith. But the first step to finding it is recognizing our own emotions. "To know what happiness feels like, it means you have also endured other emotions to understand the difference," says Oprah.

The very first section of Build the Life You Want is dedicated to understanding what happiness is and what it is not, learning to appreciate all emotions (positive and negative) and understanding how to manage reactions to our emotions. This sets the foundation for the rest of the book, which offers practical and simple advice on how to find a happier way of being — something we could all use more of.

Not sure where to start? Brooks has a few simple happiness habits we could all incorporate into our lives as a starting point. "I have four happiness habits that I follow each day: I practice my faith, I spend time with my family, I talk to at least one real friend and I try to serve somebody who needs me with my work," he says.

For a deeper dive into the book's lessons, tune in to Super Soul Companion Podcasts where Oprah talks with Brooks about the book and tackles reader questions about happiness.

We also talked to Oprah and Brooks about their experiences writing this book and here were some of our top takeaways.

Oprah: I had always felt that some of the principles [Brooks] speaks about in terms of being happier are ways in which I’ve led my life, but knowing now the science and research behind why they make you happier has been so fulfilling. I felt that keeping up with my gratitude journals made me happier, and now I know why. So my hope is that others can hear the research from Arthur, who teaches Happiness at Harvard, and apply it to their daily lives with a more intentional approach in self-care and well-being. 

Brooks: The biggest single error we make about happiness is thinking that it is a destination. But it isn’t — you can’t be completely happy (this side of Heaven, at least). ... The right attitude starts with the realization that happiness is a direction, not a destination, and the goal isn’t happiness, it’s “happier-ness.”

Oprah: Everyone has the choice and opportunity to be happier. And it’s not a destination. “Happier-ness” as we call it, is an active process. Everyone will experience challenges and setbacks in their life, some far more devastating than others, and that is also part of the process.

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