1. Well-being

30 definitions of well-being, from us and you

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What does well-being mean? While there is no consensus on a single one per se, here’s the definition of well-being according to Oxford dictionary:

well-being (noun) is the state of doing well in life; happy, healthy or prosperous conditions; moral or physical welfare.

Alas, the “state of doing well in life” can look like a thousand different things for different people. For some, it could mean fame. For others, it could mean good health and being free of illnesses. And for many, it’s riches beyond dreams.

While the meaning of well-being is vague and subjective, common threads that run throughout the topic include feeling whole, empowered, self-actualized, happy, satisfied with life and feeling like one is living life to the fullest.

Interestingly, longitudinal studies have shown that people with greater well-being go on to have greater success in their marriage, friendships and work, earn higher incomes, experience better physical health, and are less likely to abuse substances. [1]

Even the act of pursuing well-being in one way or another is likely to result in compounding benefits. For example, taking the action to sign up for a yoga class, book club — or the ach club, for that matter! — is likely to result in added psychological benefits (such as making new friends, or feeling a sense of purpose), kickstarting an upward spiral of positive well-being. [2] This is also known as the positive affect, which also helps you problem-solve and cope with stressors of life better.

Last December, we asked what well-being meant to you and we got a whole bunch of answers that we absolutely loved reading.

Here are some of our favorites on well-being from you:

“Well-being is not just about feeling happy, it includes savoring good relationships, having a sense of purpose and satisfaction when achieving something.” – Wen Hui

“Well-being means restoring balance in all aspects of my life. A sound mental being means thinking positively and taking things optimistically. Everything happens for a reason and we can grow from the bad ones… It is about re-discovering myself, what I can do, who I can be.” – Antoinette Garcia

“To me, well-being is a holistic thing. Both my mental and physical well-being go hand-in-hand. So it means nourishing both my mind and body by making time for all the love, self-care and healing I can get.” – Jacey Lim

“Well-being is not dreading every moment you are awake.” – Kayla

“Well-being means a sense of calm and lightness that comes with purposeful slowing down of life.” – Ying

“Well-being means understanding my own limits and needs, and make conscious effort to stay within those limits and meet those needs.” – Stephanie Yeo

“It means taking of yourself first and allowing happiness to radiate from within to those around you.” — Kristin

“Well-being is knowing and understanding yourself, so we can do the things that nourish and heal the self.” — Wan Chia

“Well-being is practicing mindfulness in everything that I do, taking deep breaths to calm and clear my mind, setting break times to catch up with people who matter and getting sufficient sleep.” — Noorsyahidah Jumat

“It means being my own cheerleader.” — Charissa Kwok

“It means making connections with whatever that is around you. Well-being inspires well-doing, to always live life to the fullest.” — Vicki Tay

“To me, well-being means drawing appropriate boundaries. I learnt how to take time off to reset and switch off.”  — Alicia

“Well-being is about learning how to deal with negativity positively.” — Min Yi

“Well-being is to choose oneself over the occasional stressors of life, the busy mundane routines and the daily hustle. It’s developing connections with the body, embracing happy healthy habits and forming lifelong friendships with our mind.” — Shankari Anjana

“Well-being means checking in with my mental state at the end of everyday and journaling my thoughts and reflections.” — Abigail

“Well-being means self-love, feeding your body with healthy food and your mind with positive thoughts.” — Jo

“To me, it’s about feeling good inside-out, whether it’s enjoying a good book, a cup of tea, listening to your favorite music or spending a day doing nothing. It’s about feeling comfortable and happy.” — Rachel Yohannan

“Well-being is lounging and relaxing in comfy and cute pyjamas with a hot cup of tea, having a good chat with friends or enjoying a good book!” — May

“Well-being is treating your body right and making sure it has all the right ingredients to thrive. It’s about knowing what your capacity is and knowing that it’s ok to let go of some things.” — Alyssa Tan

“To me, well-being is about being in touch with my emotions and understanding why I feel a certain way. It’s a journey of self-discovery and self-love, and embracing myself for who I am.” — Jewel Ng

“Well-being to me is the literal state of being well, mentally, physically and spiritually. Doing well in just one is not enough; you can be physically healthy but mentally drained. Striving to be well in all three is important.” — Claudine Tham

“Well-being is much bigger than momentary happiness. It also includes how satisfied we are, our sense of purpose, how in control of our lives we feel.” — Sweethe

“Well-being is accepting yourself for who you are and be kind to yourself, even if we do not meet the goals we set out. Slow progress is still progress.” — May Foong

“Well-being is your ability to make peace with yourself.” — Cynthia Aprilia

“Well-being is the alignment between body, mind and soul. It is the collective wellness of these three that makes me feel gratitude and happiness.” — Adela Chew

“Well-being is learning to like myself.” — Amanda Lee

“Physical well-being: exercising and eating well.
Emotional well-being: giving my best in relationships with my loved ones, recognising that they are just as imperfect as I am.
Mental well-being: being inspiring and stimulated through literature and culture.
Social well-being: volunteering or giving to causes that I care about.” — Ellie

“It means eating well, living well, laughing often and enjoying each day.” — NJ Lim

“Well-being means knowing what is important to you, what self-care routines are non-negotiables as this will allow you to be the best version of yourself.” — Josephine Lim

While we can quibble for days about what well-being really means, we can all agree on one thing: it’s different for everyone. The truth is, we human beings experience joy and happiness differently, have different things we gravitate towards, have different goals, are motivated by different things.

Despite our differences, here are three universal elements that remain integral to our well-being:

1. Work on understanding our Self.

Knowing yourself is the most important (and most underrated!) step to a life of well-being and happiness. Spend time alone and create spaces for contemplation: meditate, journal, schedule self-care seshs, spend time in nature, take long walks — whatever works best for you!

Give yourself permission to listen to your thoughts and your body. What are you believing, what are you telling yourself? When you notice your self-talk is being unkind, change it for a more loving and supportive one. Along the way, take notice of everything you respond to. What brings you joy? What are your preferences? What kind of patterns do you have? It’s important to write it down these reflections rather just thinking about them. Writing is a powerful tool in itself for clarifying your thoughts.

2. Nourish our bodies for energy.

Food is meant to give us energy and give our bodies the fuel we need to think, move and live life to the fullest. Exercise is the same — it lubricates our joints and muscle tissue, build bone and muscle strength, triggers antioxidants and cell repair and protect us from ailments and certain diseases. Working out even enhances our cognitive ability. If we’re eating well and working out, it keeps us energized and ready to take on the day. We’d say that’s a life that is well and thriving!

3. Connect deeply with others.

Human beings are social creatures and we thrive when we feel a connection to a fellow human being — introverts included! We are not meant for prolonged periods of solitude nor are we meant to live life alone. So, put yourself out there and be fully present when you’re connecting with others. Listen to what they have to say and be giving: of your time, your thoughts, your presence.


Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803– 855.

Fredrickson, B. L., & Joiner, T. (2002). Positive emotions trigger upward spirals toward emotional well-being. Psychological Science, 13, 172– 175. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9280.00431

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