Oprah's Co-Author Arthur C. Brooks Says They Share the Same Goal: 'Lift People Up and Bring Them Together' (Exclusive)

"This is the way that Oprah and I have seen our own lives and that was the message that we're trying to bring to other people," Brooks tells PEOPLE of their new book, 'Build the Life You Want,' which details the science behind happiness

<p>Candice Gayl</p> Arthur C. Brooks and Oprah Winfrey

Candice Gayl

Arthur C. Brooks and Oprah Winfrey

When Arthur C. Brooks, a professor who studies happiness, heard that Oprah Winfrey was trying to reach him, he says his first response was, "Yeah, and I'm Batman."

But it turned out to be true: Winfrey had become a fan of Brooks' column in The Atlantic, and then she read his 2022 book, From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life. Now, she hoped the two of them could collaborate.

The pair's first joint venture was when Brooks appeared on Winfrey's Super Soul podcast in April 2022. But they weren't done yet.

After finally meeting in person, Brooks says they realized they needed to write a book together.

"We understood each other in terms of values and what we're trying to do, and she's awesome as a person," he tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "She's interesting and she's super smart. And so then we started cooking up this thing, this idea of the book."

Related: Oprah Winfrey on Finding the Secret to Happiness: 'I Have a Big Life, But the Simplest Things Bring Me the Greatest Joy' (Exclusive)

<p>courtesy of PRH</p> 'Build the Life You Want' by Oprah Winfrey and Arthur C. Brooks

courtesy of PRH

'Build the Life You Want' by Oprah Winfrey and Arthur C. Brooks

That book, Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier, comes out on Sept. 12.

In it, Brooks — who left his job as a CEO of a think tank to study happiness — and Winfrey write about how people can improve their own lives by first getting to know and manage their emotions, and then by "working on the pillars of what a strong happy life is built on," which Brooks says consists of family, friends, work and faith.

"It was really a very positive experience because this is the way that Oprah and I have seen our own lives and that was the message that we're trying to bring to other people," he adds.

Related: Oprah Winfrey Enjoys Italian Wellness Retreat with Gayle King, Ava DuVernay: 'Cheers to Better Health'

As for his own work, Brooks cites the influence of philosophers: "The philosophers are the ones who ask the interesting questions, the theologians, everybody from the Buddha to Schopenhauer. Those are the ones asking the interesting questions about life and happiness."

Then, he says, he thinks about the work of neuroscientists: "Okay, if we're going to understand this, if we're talking about these happiness questions, then how is it going to actually work? You go to neuroscience for the mechanism of action. When the brain is processing these types of questions, what's actually happening?"

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Finally, he turns to psychology and the other social sciences to find evidence that people are happier when they follow the kind of guidance he and Oprah lay out in the book.

In the end, Brooks says, "It's a lot of ancient teachings, a lot of common sense, a lot of what grandma would say."

<p>Rahil Ahad/Legatum Institute</p> Arthur C. Brooks

Rahil Ahad/Legatum Institute

Arthur C. Brooks

When asked if there's any one thing that anyone can do to become happier, he boils it down to a simple answer: love.

"Love more. Don't push love away. That's it. Don't wait for love. Go love. Go love more. Go say, I love you. Go act like I love you. If you're religious, say it to God too. And then when love comes your way, don't push it away. Happiness is love. Full stop," he says. "You can see why Oprah and I understand each other!"

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After working together on the book, Brooks says, he's come to see Winfrey as a friend but also something else. "I want to be more Oprah, quite frankly," he says. "She, for me has been an extremely positive role model."

When he's facing a difficult situation, he says, it makes senses to "offer things up in prayer and then you say to yourself, 'Well, what Oprah do: WWOD?'"

For more on Oprah Winfrey and Arthur C. Brook's new book, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here

Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier is available everywhere books are sold on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

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