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Finding the key to your mental resilience

How you can improve your mental resilience

Senior researcher Dr Justine Gatt is one of Australia’s leading experts in the neuroscience of wellbeing and mental resilience. 

She has created an easy-to-use tool called the COMPAS-W Wellbeing Scale, which can effectively measure a person’s wellbeing and help them to increase their resilience against mental illness.

How does the scale work?

Dr Gatt has identified six areas that you can work on to improve your resilience. Having greater resilience increases your wellbeing, which helps protect you from mental illness. Greater wellbeing and resilience means you have more tools and capabilities to deal with the stresses and anxieties we experience during everyday life.

Find the key to your mental resilience webinar 

In this webinar, Dr Gatt explains a bit more about these six components of her scale and what you can do to improve your resilience. We also hear from PhD student Miranda Chilver who gives an insight into her recent study looking at positive psychology interventions. Finally, Colour Your Hair 2019 & 2020 participant Bradon French shares his own lived experience with mental illness.

Top tips for improving your resilience

To improve your wellbeing in the six areas highlighted by the COMPAS-W Wellbeing Scale, Dr Gatt advises:


Developing Composure During Stress: Evaluate how you normally deal with stress. For instance, do you use coping styles that help you adapt to the stressor or are you using maladaptive coping styles? Try to build a self-awareness of your body when you are starting to become stressed (e.g., sweaty hands, irritability) and use this opportunity to try a new adaptive coping mechanism, such as active problem solving, rather than avoidance or denial. Choose tension relieving activities, such as humour rather than anger or passive aggression, and aerobic exercise or yoga rather than smoking.

Own Worth

Protecting Your Own-worth: Know who you are as a person, what you stand for, what your personal values are, and be authentic to that vision across different situations and when dealing with people. Develop healthy boundaries around yourself when dealing with others and use assertiveness to maintain those boundaries with people. When things don’t work out as planned, practice self-compassion and be your own number one supporter rather than kicking yourself when you are down.


Building Mastery: Identify your strengths, talents and interests and ways you can proactively build on them. It is also useful to identify new skills you would like to master. Engaging in these sorts of activities may take you out of your comfort zone, but by doing this, it helps you learn how to manage mild controllable stressors in your environment.


Optimising Positivity: Try and adopt a positive outlook. Identify activities or hobbies you enjoy doing and schedule them into your diary on a frequent basis. You could also find ways to surround your space, at home or work, with things that uplift you, such as photos, art, colour, music and Create positive “to-do” and achievement lists. Practise frequent acts of kindness and positive reminiscence to further enable gratitude and feelings of wellness.


Promoting Achievement: Identify your life purpose, talents and interests. Think about what drives you, and what you are passionate about. These could include things that bring a sense of joy and achievement when accomplished. Then set meaningful goals that satisfy these needs and interests, and find incremental ways to implemented these into your life.


Developing Satisfaction With Life: Remember that our physical body also feeds our mental health. It might be time to re-evaluate your sleep, diet and exercise habits. Could they be improved? Our satisfaction is also improved through social support so it is important to touch base regularly with people you bond with, as a means of emotional support. Lastly, be mindful and present in the moment. Mindfulness is a great technique to experience the “present” moment and can also be used when feeling anxious. A quick way to be mindful is to use your five senses (sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch), and apply these to different scenarios. For instance, you might like to try mindful eating, mindful walking or mindful breathing. Focus on the here and now rather than worrying about the past or future.

For more information, please see our in-depth PDF with even more information about the Scale and what you can do to improve your resilience is here.