What is the Resilience Doughnut, and how does it build resilience in young children?

Over the past few years I have had some interesting conversations about The “Resilience Doughnut” .

Some people just ring and ask “So what is this “Resilience Doughnut thing” I keep hearing about? and I smile (try not to groan) and happily explain the model as developed by Lyn Worsley.

But by far the funniest conversation was returning a call to a school principal one morning. Whilst passing on my name to his school secretary …..   “It’s Sue from the Resilience Doughnut – mobile number 0408 164 785.. …” . she burst out enthusiastically … “Oh that’s so fantastic! You must be from that new patisserie down the road – it’s serendipity as I need to order a birthday cake for……” DER!!….  Some days, you’ve just gotta laugh!

So if any of you readers also think the Resilience Doughnut  is a local cake shop or Donut King franchise, can I just give you an outline of the model and how it builds resilience in kids, parents, families and organisations …and I’ve gotta tell you, it’s just terrific!

Why is the model called a Resilience “ Doughnut”?

Many years ago, after working as a Clinical psychologist,  Lyn Worsley developed a simple and practical resilience-building tool that can be easily used by anyone, including young people themselves. It is called the Resilience Doughnut and is outlined in her book, “The Resilience Doughnut: The Secret of Strong Kids”.

Quite simply, the Resilience Doughnut looks just like a doughnut and has two parts:

1. The hole in the middle represents the INTERNAL beliefs a person has of themselves:

  • their awareness of those who support them (who I have).
  • how they view themselves (who I am)
  • the degree of confidence they have in their own abilities (what I can do)

Research indicates that young people who have strong positive beliefs in each of these three areas are more likely to be resilient.

2. The outside of the doughnut is comprised of seven sections and each section represents an EXTERNAL FACTOR that is part of a person’s life.

The seven factors are:

  • The Parent Factor: characteristics of strong and effective parenting
  • The Skill Factor: evidence of self-competence
  • The Family and Identity Factor: where family identity and connectedness is evident
  • The Education Factor: experience of connections and relationships during the learning process
  • The Peer Factor: where social and moral development is enhanced through interactions with peers
  • The Community Factor: where the morals and values of the local community are transferred and the young person is supported
  • The Money Factor: where the young person develops the ability to give as well as take from society through employment and purposeful spending

These seven factors each have the potential to enhance the positive INTERNAL beliefs within the person and thus  help the individual to develop resilience.  Interestingly, research shows most of the resilient individuals had only some, and not all, of these seven factors working well in their life and it seems that an ability to focus on the factors that are STRONG is a key aspect of a resilient individual.

So is this something new?

Yes it is really.

Past research has tended to focus on risk factors in the lives of young people who have become involved in health risk behaviours. In other words, efforts have been directed towards trying to understand why certain young people are NOT RESILIENT. While this notion is popular with professionals working individually with young people, it is not always useful for parents trying to raise their child effectively or the average teacher or school principal who wants to see their students cope with pressures inside and outside of school.

How does Lyn’s model reflect modern research?

More recently, research has focused on young people who ARE RESILIENT, despite the adversities they are facing. Australia psychologist Andrew Fuller defines resilience as “the happy knack of being able to bungy jump through the pitfalls of life”.  You’ve probably heard that expression in recent years and a number of researchers have found that there are common qualities amongst those individuals who are able to ‘bungy jump’ through their pitfalls and keep thriving.

By drawing on such research,  Lyn  has developed a simple and practical resilience-building tool that can be easily used by anyone, including young people themselves. It is so simple for people to learn.

 So how does the Doughnut work then?

Lyn  designed a simple scoring method which enables individuals to score the strength of seven factors in the Resilience Doughnut.

These scores are then used to identify the THREE STRONGEST FACTORS, from which the individual gains messages that build or enhance their resilience. Once the strength factors are established, creativity can begin!

Lyn encourages people to think of ways they can use their strength factors in every day life, and work to make them even stronger.

Because the Resilience Doughnut is simple and effective to use, new ways of building resilience in children and adolescents can be discovered and applied in many different contexts. Teachers, students, parents, caring professionals or individuals who want to become more resilient in the face of adversity,  find the Resilience Doughnut relevant, helpful and simple to use. The Resilience Doughnut is fun and creative and, at the very least, the process of working with the Resilience Doughnut has the potential to strengthen the human spirit and build a sense of hope and optimism.

So does that sound interesting? It is a simply fabulous model that really works.

If you’d like to watch a video clip about The Resilience Doughnut, then click here  and we can guarantee you won’t even get fat on this Doughnut!


Living life to the full – Values and a values-directed life.

Do you ever wonder “where am I going?” 

Do you find it hard to set goals? 

Society these days seems to be focused a lot on goals. You’re probably rolling your eyes at the mention of the word. The workplace seems to thrive off words like ‘goal’, ‘predicted outcome’ or ‘key performance indicator (KPI)’. The message seems to always be “achieve more, do better and always meet your target”.

The two questions I raised above seem to always go hand in hand; when you don’t know where you want to go with your life, you might find it hard to set goals. 

Working hard towards that work performance target might not seem worth the effort – you don’t enjoy work anyway. Getting a high distinction in that uni essay might not seem worth the hassle – you don’t even know if this subject is in the career path you want to take. Exercise is boring and you just can’t get up early in the morning for that bike ride you know you should be taking…

What is missing in these statements? Values

You might have heard the word ‘values’ before in the context of goals and goal-setting. Sometimes we tend to think that values and goals are the same thing but there is a distinct difference between a value and a goal. Knowing that difference can make all the difference. 

What is a goal?
A goal is something you want to achieve, and it can be anything but it is always a concrete target. A great example of a goal is deciding to go for a run every morning for a week. It is simple, defined, and you can work towards achieving it. 

What is a value?
Differently to a goal, a value is not strictly achievable – it is something that you want to be. It could be a characteristic that you want to embrace, something about yourself that you want to change, something that you aspire to but can’t actually ever become completely. Say, you’ve decided that you want to be a better wife and mother to your kids. What can you do to achieve that? Do you ever stop trying to be better? Will you ever reach perfection in being a wife and mother? 
The reason why these questions can’t be answered is because being a better wife and mother is a value, not a goal. 

How do goals and values work together?
The great thing about values is that they become a source for new goals. 

Once you know what your values are, you’ll find that setting and keeping goals is a lot easier. Want to be a better mother? What could you do this week to get you a little closer to being a better mother? You might decide to give your children a compliment every day… now you have a goal based on a value. When you have goals that are based on values, you’re setting a goal in a firm foundation. 

Achieving your goals
Motivation is something that can sometimes be hard to find or maintain. One big motivator for achieving goals is the promise of a reward. You’re probably more likely to go for a run every morning this week if I promised I’d give you 20 dollars for doing so. That is what we call extrinsic motivation – the motivation is coming from an external source. Seems perfectly effective but the reality is that we cannot control the external. What if I stopped paying you to run? You’d probably stop running because the motivation has disappeared. 

Values-based goals have a firm foundation because the motivation is lasting. Essentially, by achieving your goal, you will be taking a step towards being the person you want to be. That source of motivation is intrinsic, and researchers have found thatintrinsic motivation is a lot stronger than extrinsic. You probably would still set and achieve goals to spend more quality time with your children, regardless of whether I paid you for it. That’s because the motivation comes from the sense that you are being more like the person you aim to be – and that positive feedback is inherently rewarding. 

Basically, the point I am trying to make is this – if you’re finding it hard to set and maintain goals in your life, stop and think about your values first. Ask yourself, am I striving to achieve things in my life that bring me closer to the person I want to be or am I simply aiming for goals because I think I should be? 

There is a lot of research to suggest that living a values-directed life is a good start towards promoting resilience and wellbeing in your life. If you find yourself stuck in a rut, not descending but certainly not flourishing like you thought you could, perhaps it’s worth taking the time to work out some of the things about yourself or others that you like and how you might move towards growing and refining those qualities within yourself. Set goals around those values. A good start can often be to think about someone you admire. What is it about that person that you admire? Often those things are your values. When you have them, start to think in baby steps what you could start doing right now to be a little more like that.


Recommended Reading

Values and Values-based living is one of the core aspects of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). If you would like to know more about values and ACT, I recommend the following books and websites:

1. Get Out of Your Mind and into Your LIfe: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. By Dr Stephen C. Hayes

2. The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling and Start LIving. By Dr Russ Harris

3. Dr Harris has a website titled The Happiness Trap.

Adam Wright is a practitioner at Alpha Psychology. Adam has training and experience in using ACT and mindfulness to treat anxiety, depression and other disorders. Feel free to check out his bio for more information or call Alpha at 9869 0377. 


Forgiveness and Resilience

Forgiveness annd Resilience

by Lyn Worsley

Studies have found that adults who appear to be more resilient than others show characteristics of forgiveness. But what does that mean? How do we define forgiveness? And how can we be more forgiving?

First of all there appears to be a process of forgiveness, which is evident in the case studies of resilient people. Other studies have found there to be a correlation between resilience and forgiveness.

Sonia Lyubomirsky’s The How of Happiness, has a chapter on forgiveness. In the section, entitled “Learning to Forgive,” Lyubomirsky emphasizes that forgiveness is “something that you do for yourself and not for the person that has wronged you.” She notes that the true benefit of forgiveness lies in what it does for our-selves. She suggests that the potential punishment of not forgiving is the imprisonment in your own anger. That is, our own un-forgiveness is even weightier than any the perpetrators might receive.

Sonia relays a story: When former President Bill Clinton asked Nelson Mandela how he was able to bring himself to forgive his jailers, and Mandela responded,

When I walked out of the gate I knew that if I continued to hate these people I was still in prison.

Forgiveness seems to be a necessity, not a choice, if one is to move forward in life free, weightless, and resilient. It has been found that forgiveness can be used as an emotion-focused coping strategy to reduce a stressful reaction to something that is done to us.

So what can we do to help us with forgiveness and build our resilience? How can we use the forgiveness to help us get through a traumatic or hurtful event?

I like to think of the process of forgiveness in a really simplistic way.
If forgiveness is not for the other but for those who forgive we need to look at the energy process. Remember the scientific principle, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” This is true in psychology of human interactions. It is natural for us to react to anything in a psychological way often with the same level of energy.
So if someone does something wrong to you, you have a reaction to that which is equal to what has been done to you. This reaction however can come in many forms. You can be a victim where you feel wronged and helpless and feel like depression, or you can react like a survivor and have an indignation and anger. Both of these reactions not only equal the trauma or the hurtful event but can double the pain and the effect on those traumatized.
So the action of the trauma or hurt has an equal reaction of hurt or anger.

However there is another way and that is to be proactive in response to the trauma. Forgiveness is not doing nothing, because that will end up with either an eventual victim or survivor reaction. Forgiveness is to respond to the trauma in a direction that is more helpful for everyone. A pro-active response is taking the steps toward a more positive future regardless of the hurt inside.

A Proactive response is sometimes doing the opposite to what you feel like doing. It can change the event to go into another direction. It can channel the energy towards a different goal. Real forgiveness does that. It channels the energy where it belongs and it is neither seeking revenge nor being a doormat. This is the opposite reaction to what is expected and what is justified. We are justified to be in a hurtful place and expected to react, retaliate or have revenge. But the opposite is to be proactive towards a more positive place. But there is a twist, forgiving someone is not to just lie down and take the abuse or to accept the punishment that is undeserved but rather to do something that does not involve a reaction.

So to make it simpler, it may be to behave as if the trauma never occurred. Or to act as if it didn’t affect you. Or to act as if you were not afraid.
Sometimes asking the question, what would I do if I wasn’t afraid, or what would I do if this didn’t affect me gives you very good information. These questions remove your personal reaction to the hurt and replaces it with an action that is unaffected by the trauma. It gives you information about who you would be if the trauma or hurt never occurred.
One very brave woman said to me recently,

It is not what has happened to you that matters as much as who you are in the midst of it.

So to be forgiving is actually to have a set of behaviours, which are likely to make you feel less affected by the trauma and clearer about your reaction which will stop the trauma affecting you. It may even help you to move the situation to a place of healing and help the other person to learn from the situation.

It may mean that the person causing the situation feels the consequences of their action, and they have the opportunity to own what is happening. This isn’t revenge or pay back but may be a proactive response that shows self-respect. For example, the person who rides the train for free is imposed a fine, or the woman who is being abused by her husband decides to leave the marriage and bars him from the benefits of the relationship by walking away. If we do not impose costs, what will stop the perpetrator from hurting again?

So forgiveness here is not letting someone get away with the abusive behaviour but allowing them have the self respect to own their behaviour. Forgiveness is not to be the victim of another’s behaviour and feeling helpless in reaction to them, which in some cases enables the bad behaviour to continue, but it is rather a proactive response from someone with self respect.

Some key steps that help us to move towards forgiveness is in Worthington’s “Five Steps to Forgiveness” which was born of his own struggle to forgive the person who raped and then brutally murdered his aging mother in a most shocking and horrific way. Worthington’s “REACH” acronym helps us to remember the steps.

  • R = Recall the hurt; visualize the event or the circumstance.
  • E = Empathize with the perpetrator. Understand his/her point of view.
  • A = Altruistic gift of forgiveness. This must be given freely without self-interest. Last week we talked about taking yourself out of the picture and thinking of their needs. Some of which may be to face the consequences of their action
  • C = Commit yourself to forgive publicly.
  • H = Hold on to the forgiveness. (Forgive seven times seventy)

Each of these steps can be extremely difficult to take and it may take time – sometimes a long time – to take each one. But
As we attempt to “REACH” to be more forgiving, we begin to feel a motivating peace that propels us forward. When we forgive others, there is a sense of a burden being lifted. When we forgive others, we give up our position as an aggrieved victim and lose the power to induce guilt and the luxury of experiencing and expressing righteous indignation. Forgiveness require[s] us to put pride aside and be humble.

I think there is something noble and majestic, and at the same time, humble about someone who forgives. Those who truly forgive seem to attain a serenity that is deep and rich. These “forgivers” give a unique and singular gift that is theirs alone to give.

Forgiveness is a topic that is often discussed in therapy and while there are some key ways to approach forgiveness, each person is different. If forgiveness is something you want to work on, seeing someone to help you through the process can be a wonderful experience.

A Call For Honesty and Action

By Hazel McKenzie

Registered Psychologist at Alpha Psychology and The Resilience Centre

Last week I was moved and inspired by the fragility and honesty shown by Australian VJ Ruby Rose in her public Facebook message about her ongoing battle with depression. Ruby’s story has been very public and her vocalism on subjects such as bullying, depression, gay and lesbian rights and surviving childhood trauma has been, still is, admirable and a source of inspiration to thousands of young people. What I most admire about her message however, is the way she talks about her illness as an illness. There is anticipated recovery and improvement just like there would be from the flu or an asthma attack. It goes to the very heart of how she views mental illness. The statement itself is, I believe, an indication of an evolution, dare I say revolution, in the way we are beginning to talk about mental health issues.

There is no doubt that those diagnosed and/or living with with a mental health issue experience stigma and challenge, we are not there yet. According to statistics from the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum (www.nmhccf.org.au) people with a mental illness are among the most disadvantaged in Australian society. The severity and longevity of disadvantage very much depends on the condition. Social and economic hardship can be fleeting or a lifetime reality as people become vulnerable to isolation and discrimination at the hands of their families, communities and at times employers due to a lack of understanding of what living with mental illness means. Misconceptions are often perpetuated by the media and community jungle drums that favour sensational stories that end in tragedy and misery but do nothing to show us that people with mental health issues can live functional and fulfilled lives, and they can recover. The media portrays mental illness in a predominantly negative light e.g.in February this year over 90% of Australian media coverage of mental health issues was negatively reported (SANE StigmaWatch).

1 in 5 of us WILL suffer from mental illness at some point in our lives (see www.oneinfive.com.au). Those statistics are real and have real people and lives behind them. Most people have many more than 4 other people that live, love and work close to them so even if you are in denial that it could ever be YOU then it WILL be someone close to you. Wouldn’t it be a great achievement if 5 out of 5 people were educated about mental illness and no longer felt afraid of talking about it openly or helping a loved one deal with it? Significant others, friends, family members, colleagues, who could be life changers often feel disabled and disempowered due to a lack of knowledge and understanding. We’ve all offered the consolatory, ‘let me know if you need anything’ to friends, after all, most of us are well intentioned people. However, the bit we don’t often remember is that our friends and family who are in crisis or, less sensationally, normalising what you can see is not normal behaviour or coping, then we need to step in without having to be asked. Here are some things to consider (they are not age specific):

TAKE IT SERIOUSLY – You think there’s a problem. Don’t tell them to get over it or presume they are attention seeking. If you notice something that is out of the ordinary for them or a pattern emerging that is out of character share your concern with them. Ask them if they are alright, really. And ask them again until you are satisfied. If you suspect they are not alright then don’t leave it at that. Don’t be aggressive and diagnose them, they may not be ready to admit there’s a problem, perhaps suggesting you both run it past someone else is a logical first step. This also shares the burden so you are no longer feel alone. Let them know it’s OK to talk about it, you are not judging them.

COMMUNICATION – Be persistent. Let them know you are thinking of them, call and drop by – don’t wait for an invitation. Continue to ask them over and suggest outings, even if just for short walks. Depression and anxiety love to stay at home. Be a good listener. Acknowledge things are tough but still be realistically positive and hopeful, things don’t have to be like this forever but right now you can see it sucks. Timing is crucial, don’t push someone to talk if they don’t want to but be ready to stay for awhile if they need you. Give them some helpline numbers they can chat to when you are not there. Often there is no answer to the ‘why’ question, so if it’s not immediately obvious leave it up to the professionals to work this out. You need to make the person feel supported and accepted, assured that you will not abandon them in tough times.

PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT – Many sufferers find seeking help difficult, it means acknowledging there is an issue and it is too big for them to deal with. You can be the person who does the research, finds the right professional, makes appointments, sends reminders. You can facilitate the process without being overbearing. Remember, there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to treatment or treating professionals. Personally, I love to meet my clients’ support team. I ask about them all the time in session and since we have the same objective it may be useful to offer to go along to some appointments. You don’t have to go in but waiting in the lounge area is always a mark of respect and support that I admire.

SELF CARE – you need to look after yourself first and your friend/loved one second. It’s like the air masks on the aeroplane, you can’t help someone if you are struggling yourself. If you have been through a similar situation, don’t presume it’s the same and don’t presume what worked for you will work for them, infact don’t presume anything. You also need to set boundaries. Some conditions are unpredictable and manipulative and may be around for a long time to test your limits. You need to be clear with yourself about what you are able to offer in terms of availability. Getting a group of like minded friends/family members together can help in this. Have someone who you yourself can talk to when things get difficult and you are emotionally challenged.

EDUCATE YOURSELF – You are not a professional (although maybe you are!) but living closely to someone with a mental health issue does make you an expert. An expert in how it effects them. You may need to learn about medications, strategies, warning signs, relapse prevention depending on what you are dealing with. There are lots of support sites and forums out there to connect with people who are walking the same path as you. It helps to know that you are not the first and not alone.

BE THERE – when you can. Don’t make promises that are unrealistic and you can’t keep. Having a safety plan for crises can be helpful and this should be negotiated with a mental health professional if your friend is suicidal or in crisis. Not everyone is equipped to be able to deal with mental illness as well as the next person. Just like my knees go to jelly when I see a child’s wobbly tooth, (I would make a terrible school nurse!); some people find it difficult to be proactive in support. Having said this, we all have a RESPONSIBILITY to treat people with respect, help if and where we can, give them space and support from afar if we can’t. We can’t afford to ignore problems or think they happen to other people. According to the World Health Authority the burden of mental health disorders is set to rise significantly over the next 20 years. The effects on family, friends and caregivers cannot be underestimated. The first step in reducing stigma and discrimination in order to increase helpseeking and support services is to educate our communities to be helpful and supportive rather than judgemental and powerless.

And to you Ruby Rose I say, thank you for once again raising awareness of such an important issue. I wish you well on your journey to wellness.


One in Five


World Health Organisation



APS Find a Psychologist Service

Hazel is a Registered Psychologist who works at Alpha Psychology and The Resilience Centre. If you would like to talk to Hazel about someone you are concerned about or receive some support yourself you can contact her here.


by May Lim
Registered Psychologist
Alpha Psychology and The Resilience Centre


HopeA reason for surviving. A reason for living. A reason to keep going despite facing adversity.

I really do feel encouraged and hungry to know more every time someone introduces me to Hope. This thing called Hope – it’s amazing and powerful. I’ve seen it when it’s full and generous; when it’s fragile and fading and also when it’s been lost and found.

When I encounter people who have experienced suffering in their lives, I like to be respectfully curious about what has encouraged them to persevere. My experiences supporting asylum seekers and refugees living and waiting in detention has further allowed me to witness the significance of hope in keeping life alive. I would invite them to consider, “If you are a candle and your hope is your flame, what would your flame look like now?” Many responses communicated that their flames were weak and faint. Despite the condition of their flames, one thing was for sure – though their flames were often flickering unsteadily, they certainly were not extinguished. Though their hope was not at its strongest and at grand heights, it was still alive and served a purpose.

Despite living through trauma and torture, witnessing atrocities and death, being displaced from their homes, enduring separation from family as well as facing an uncertain future for an unknown length of time, just how did Hope manage to stay alive and keep its job?

From my conversations with people I’ve met, it was love.

A strong and steadfast love for their family and all of its members – children, their spouse, parents, siblings and grandparents. A hope for a future filled with safety, promise and new beginnings for themselves and their loved ones. How powerful is love in its ability to protect and engineer hope? I witnessed how individuals can grow and strengthen their hope as a result of deriving meaning from suffering. It is truly encouraging to experience the positive changes that occur when one’s relationship with suffering shifts into a purposeful one.

Friedrich Nietzsche stated “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how”.

“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears towards a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how” ” , Viktor Frankl outlined in Man’s Search for Meaning (2006), detailing descriptions of life and spiritual survival in Nazi concentration camps.

Frankl continues to describe, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms- to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which would determine whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become moulded into the form of the typical inmate”.

“The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity- even under the most difficult circumstances- to add a deeper meaning to his life” (Frankl, 2006).

I am inspired and encouraged by people who have met adversity and suffering with a deliberate attitude of hope. Moreover, it is of such value when experiences of suffering become much more than just a narrative – when there is meaning accompanying it. This distinction often makes the difference in the growth of hope for the person as well as others who later learn from this.

It is also noteworthy to highlight that suffering is not necessary to find meaning, only that “meaning is possible in spite of suffering” (Frankl, 2006).

Hope has a beautiful recipe of turning challenges into triumphs. It can propel us to choose how to cope with difficulties, draw meaning from it and coax us in a forward facing direction. Hope can be instrumental in the formation of helpful attitudes and can also be contagious.

When we reflect on the “why” and our purpose for travelling through hard times, this may be unique for every person. Perhaps it’s out of love and commitment to loved ones, a promise made to ourselves, a test of our spiritual faith, a relentless goal for the future, a need to experience positive changes, a lesson longing to be passed down to the next generation, a desire to acquaint ourselves with a stronger developed self, a hope for healing and restoration, a want for reconnection to others or maybe a search for a deeper meaning in life.

Whatever your reasons are for persisting through hardship, may they arm you and fuel you with Hope and more of it.



Frankl, V. E. (2006). Man’s Search for Meaning. Massachusetts: Beacon Press.

May Lim is a Registered Psychologist at Alpha Psychology and The Resilience Centre.
Read more about her @maylim