An NWR conference, all in ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’

What is the key to happiness? NWR recently held a conference, The Pursuit of Happiness, and invited speakers who could let us in on the secret…


I attended this conference not knowing quite what to expect, but I was richly rewarded.  We had two speakers, who were both psychologists but with a different approach to what we could achieve in life.

The first speaker was Michael Ferguson, a business psychologist who uses cognitive psychology to encourage people to do things that they do not think they are capable of doing. He spoke in a matter of fact but also very amusing way of all sorts of everyday situations, explaining that our unconscious brain does the majority of the work in controlling what we do, rather than the conscious brain. He demonstrated, for example, how many actions were involved in picking up a wineglass, which we do without giving it a thought, all controlled by the unconscious brain. He went on to show how successful people appear to have all the attributes for high achievement, but that in fact there is no reason why anyone should believe themselves incapable of doing the same thing. We all felt very inspired and ready to conquer the world at the end of his talk.

“We all felt very inspired and ready to conquer the world at the end of his talk”

The afternoon speaker, Miriam Akhtar, is a positive psychologist who feels that, while happiness is what we think we want, we don’t always know what it is or how to achieve it. She explained how beneficial it is to our health and well-being to feel happy, and how we are more likely to succeed in life as a result. She gave examples of how to work out what made us happy, and at various points in her talk we split into small groups to discuss with each other such things as “what makes you feel good” and “what are you grateful for”. It was interesting to hear how she had helped people with mental illness and depression by showing how to recognise the good things in life, and the importance of feeling grateful for small things each day. She too was a very amusing and engaging speaker.

All in all it was a most fascinating and entertaining day, and the atmosphere in the room was electric. Everyone had plenty to say about the various questions posed, and all agreed that the time had gone far too quickly.


Image by Goutier Rodrigez