The way we interact online and how we live our digital lives can have a big impact on out general wellbeing, mental health and also our resilience. But what do we mean with these terms? In this section, we will define each of these terms.
Wellbeing is a keyword in the WHO definition of health, with health being defined as “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.
Wellbeing refers to our sense of self and our ability to live our lives as closely as possible to the way we want to. It encapsulates the abilities to have positive relationships, promote healthy living and feel life satisfaction.
Our sense of wellbeing is affected by how we might feel about something we do or the relationships we have – if something triggers positive emotions such as happiness or enjoyment. However, when we are talking about wellbeing we are not just thinking about the fleeting moments of happiness we experience but also our overall satisfaction with life (King, 2016). To read more about this area, you can refer to the Positive Psychology resources in the References section.
According to the WHO, mental health as a “state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Note that “wellbeing” also forms an important part in the definition of mental health. It is worth noting here also that the ability to “cope with the normal stresses of life” is central to the definition. There are many sources of stress, and ways of coping with each, and that includes what we have termed “digital stress”.
“Psychological resilience is the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly. Resilience exists when the person uses “mental processes and behaviors in promoting personal assets and protecting self from the potential negative effects of stressors”. In simpler terms, psychological resilience exists in people who develop psychological and behavioral capabilities that allow them to remain calm during crises/chaos and to move on from the incident without long-term negative consequences.” Studies have shown that negative interactions online can reduce people’s resilience and ability to cope with future negative interactions, and can fuel detrimental behaviours.
Have a think about both the negative and the positive impacts that digital connection can have on our health & wellbeing. For example, without digital technology many people in the developing world would not be able to access supports like digital health programs. On the flip side, this constant connection can leave us stressed and increasingly anxious.
The short video below touches on the upsides and downsides of our digital world on humans and society at large.
*Optional: Click on the link below the video to see the full report on digital media and society*
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