Health and Wellness

My No. 1 takeaway from Oprah's new happiness book: It's 'one of the greatest gifts you can give to anybody'

Oprah Winfrey and Harvard happiness expert, Arthur C. Brooks, co-authored "Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier."
Illustration by Gene Kim

Oprah Winfrey is one of the most successful people in the world, but even she has to intentionally foster happiness in her life by actively working towards it daily.

One way Winfrey has cultivated more happiness in her life is by learning about it, which led her to the work of a prominent Harvard professor, Arthur C. Brooks, who teaches a course about how to manage happiness.

She first came across Brooks' writing through his column for The Atlantic called "How to Build a Life," and eventually read his book, "From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life."

Since then, Winfrey and Brooks have discussed happiness on her podcast. And this Tuesday, the inspirational pair published a book together titled, "Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier."

Winfrey and Brooks' book classifies the four major pillars for building a happy life as:

  1. Family
  2. Friendships
  3. Work
  4. Faith

All of which require developing positive connections with ourselves and others. Here's what Oprah believes is one of the best ways to form deeper relationships that make us happier.

Don't miss: Harvard happiness expert: There are 3 types of friendships—here’s why you need them all

My No. 1 takeaway from Oprah and Arthur C. Brooks' book on happiness: Listen more

After 25 years as a talk-show host on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," Winfrey discovered that the key to developing great connections is through listening more.

"I really learned, from all those years of interviewing people one-on-one, that one of the greatest gifts you can give to anybody is your full attention," Winfrey told People Magazine this month.

"One of the threads for me for all those years of listening was that all humans are looking to be validated. No matter what the show was, whether it was Senator Obama, or Beyoncé, or somebody who had overcome cancer."

One of the greatest gifts you can give to anybody is your full attention.
Oprah Winfrey

We can forge more meaningful connections when we truly listen and simply devote our attention to people. Winfrey and Brooks' book dives into a major way that we can listen more genuinely: connect outside of the virtual world.

"Virtual communications such as texting are by design interactive and should theoretically be less harmful; the problem is that with these technologies, we lose dimensionality," wrote Winfrey and Brooks.

"Face-to-face conversations tend to be more expansive than those conducted over text."

To incorporate less digital interactions, which can leave room for misunderstandings, the authors suggest optimizing connection with others over hours of scrolling on social media, and making a greater effort to see our friends and loved ones in person when we can.

"A 2021 study revealed that the more face-to-face communication people had with others, the more understood they felt and the more satisfied they were with their relationship," wrote Winfrey and Brooks.

"When meeting up is impossible, use face-to-face technology or the phone. Text or use similar technology for only impersonal or urgent matters."

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