Marian @ Krysan


Planting Golden Seeds in Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, and Durham



A Tear.  A Kiss.  A Smile.




Creating a Cultural Shift in Happiness


Taking charge of our life stories brings more joy than amassing the tick-box list of items commonly associated with happiness, says Chris Johnstone.


   Changing Hearts and Minds

For nearly 15 years I have been changing hearts and minds.  My granddaughter was just a toddler when I started out on 'my mission', but now she's fully grown and still an integral part of my life story. She has followed her grandmother's progress into old age with interest and, by anyone's standards, it's been the road less travelled.  It has also been a journey captured for all time here on the World Wide Web.

We are both passionate about making a difference in the world - no sitting on the fence hereabouts. Last year, she embarked on a remarkable African adventure.  This year, it's head down as A level exams loom closer and closer.  I tell you this as it is due to my family's support that I have managed to grow through the pain of living ... and even flourish.

A tear.  A kiss.  A smile.

Indeed, I owe very many people a debt of gratitude. I believe in miracles. Changing hearts and minds towards those who suffer from serious mental distress is quite a task - no doubt about that. Currently, I support the national anti-stigma campaign, Time to Change. This, too, is often part of my unofficial 'reportage' here on the web.

   Shifting Attitudes

But, my real introduction to changing attitudes began in 2008 when I received an invitation to attend an interview in London.  Shift, a national anti-stigma campaign, was looking for someone to join its team of experts through experience. The work entailed visiting English universities and talking to journalists in training.

All nationalities.  A powerful message.

No need to ask me twice.  For three years we, as a Shift team, invested our energies into talking to student journalists about the reporting of mental health and suicide in the press. The Shift project was successful, but time-limited.  Funding ended in March 2011.  I then slipped neatly into a voluntary role on the Council of Governors for the Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust.

The role of a trust governor is also time-limited, but this rare opportunity has given me a glimpse into the very heart of our vital and creative National Health Service (NHS). Like a stately galleon, I sail on as the NTW Council of Governor's official representative for the national ImROC initiative and the related Recovery College Network.  I am also happy to be part of the Trust's new anti-stigma campaign, grown out of its partnership with Time to Change.

Strange how all the pieces fit together ... like a jigsaw.

   A cultural shift

Having now brought you up to speed re my comings and goings, I will address the profound statement,

"Taking charge of our life stories brings more joy than amassing the tick-box list of items commonly associated with happiness."

So, what did Dr Chris Johnstone  mean?  In his article, he calls attention to a recent survey when over 2,000 people were asked to choose which they'd prefer for the society they lived in - the greatest overall happiness and wellbeing, or the greatest overall wealth.  Of those surveyed, 87% voted for happiness and wellbeing, while only 8% opted for wealth.  As Chris points out,

"The challenge we face is how to play our part in raising the levels of gross national (and international) happiness." 

One approach is through engaging in a cultural shift in the way we seek out happiness. Here's another quote from the article in question:

"We find happiness by engaging with life, facing what is, and applying our strengths in giving our best response."  

I invite you to consider all three statements in relation to the massive cultural shift (even tsunami) needed to create a happier society for everyone.

87% for happiness; 8% for wealth.

   Picture v. Story

Chris Johnstone describes this cultural shift as moving from a 'picture model' to a 'story model' in the way we seek out positive mood states. In essence, living in the first model means that we aim to fill our lives with a tick-box list of items commonly associated with a picture of happiness.  Advertisers love this approach, their task being to add their products to the list.  

A downsize of the picture model is 'affluenza', where we feel deficient if we don't look the right way or have the right thing  This picture approach generates an enormous pressure to consume and compete.  This contributes to record levels of depression and lower levels of happiness, even though material wealth levels are much higher now than 50 years ago. 

The story approach to happiness is more like a great adventure that has both highs and lows.  Great stories often begin with adversity; what makes the plot gripping is the way the main characters respond.  They rise to the challenge, banding together and finding their strengths as they do their bit to move the plot forward.

In the story model, we find happiness by engaging with life, facing what is and applying our strengths in giving our best response. Chris Johnstone uses the term 'active hope' for this, as happiness is more likely when we're active in the story of creating the future we hope for.  We take steps for happiness just by becoming more interested in how its story goes, and then seeking to play or part in that.  When we do this, we not only become happier, we change our culture too.

   Heart to Heart

"Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless."  PAOLINETTI

I think the above quotation re the limitless nature of our imaginings is a good jumping off point for the final part of this blog.  Here, I introduce to you to something dear to my heart and based on my long involvement with education, life-story work, and sweet conversation.  And, (of course) the Internet.

Coming out of the shadows.

Last week, I took it upon myself to take firm action and make haste in designing a series of teaching/learning packages 'do-able' by anyone 'who has a heart', curiosity and imagination.  As yet, I haven't done much in the way of market research, relying rather on an intuitive (gut) feeling that such a body of work would be welcome in many quarters not too far distant from where I sit.

A gap in the market.

And so, to begin testing the market and a possible way ahead, this afternoon I winged my first two precious, precious learning packages on their unsuspecting way.  Their destination: the twinkling eyes of two colleagues working at a senior level in the local service and user carer network.  By the end of the week, these two package will be five.  That's the plan.  And it's free.  A gift.  Seva.

So, now its your turn.  

On the next page of this website, HEART TO HEART, you will soon get a short preliminary viewing of the material, an overview enough to give you a feel for an idea as it turns (this way and that) into a reality. Ultimately, who knows where this will lead?  I will certainly keep you informed.

Epiphanies welcome!  

Active hope is writ large across the North East sky tonight.  This little enterprise has legs and is going places on a strict (very strict) budget.  Learning should be fun.  And finally, a good bit of advice from a famous American General has to be:

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."



We take steps for happiness just by becoming more interested in how its story goes, and then seeking to play or part in that.  When we do this, we not only become happier, we change our culture too.  Chris Johnstone




532 hits @ 2015-12-20





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