How to have a healthy mind - meeting your human needs
Last time I went through the basic needs we humans need to satisfy in order to stay happy and healthy. When we meet our needs it puts us in a much better position to cope with the stresses and strains of everyday life. This means we’re less likely to suffer from low self esteem, lack of confidence, anxiety, depression, addiction or other psychological problems. However the thought of having to fulfill all of these needs can be daunting at first. So here I’m going to show some examples of how you can meet your needs through everyday activities. This isn’t an exhaustive list but you some ideas to get you started. You might already be meeting all your needs but the more ways in which you meet them the more robust you’ll be against any changes life throws at you.
Security and safety
If you don’t feel safe most of the time what’s the reason? If you’re worried about burglaries would an alarm and better locks help you feel safer? Would self defence classes make you feel safer if you’re nervous when out and about? If you feel scared or anxious even when you know you’re perfectly safe it might be worth seeing a therapist to help get rid of that feeling.
To give and receive attention
Quality reciprocal attention is what you’re after, listening and being listened to. That could be with a friend over dinner, out walking with your partner or Skyping loved ones. Whatever you choose you want to be doing those things regularly enough to feel it’s enough for you. Remember it’s just as essential to give attention as to receive it so do a lot of listening.
Control and choice
You might feel stuck right now, unable to change your job or other circumstances but there is always something you can control. You can look after your health and fitness. You can take a course to update your skills or take up a hobby. You can control how you respond to what happens and how you treat other people.
Feeling someone truly knows and supports you goes a long way towards making you feel secure in the world. You can fulfil this need by meeting or talking regularly with a loved one you feel understands and supports you. If this is your spouse it may be a good idea to arrange a date night or just pop out for coffee together to get away from the usual grind and be able to discuss your dreams for the future. If you don’t feel you have anyone in that category yet you might want to work on deepening a friendship or reaching out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while.
Being a part of the community
Feeling part of something bigger than ourselves gives us a reason for being. Taking the focus off ourselves and being of service to others can add to our sense of well being and happiness. That could come from being part of a religious group, sports team, club or volunteer for a charity. You could join a green gym and help tidy up a local space while getting fit. You could start your own club for an interest you have or join an existing one. You could even campaign for local issues in your area.
Purpose, goals and meaning
Having a purpose behind what you do can give you more confidence and determination to do it. When the going gets tough it means you can dig deep and carry on. It also gives your brain something to work on so it’s less likely to make up and worry over imaginary problems. You don’t have to be a human rights lawyer to have a purpose. If you work in a school kitchen your purpose may be to provide the children with the best nutrition so they will be at their best to learn and thrive. If you work in a call centre your purpose may be to help people by dealing with their enquiries. You might want to start your own business so you can inspire other people to be their own boss and be able to give back to your community. Alternatively you may get your purpose outside of work from a personal goal like beating your best marathon time or writing a book that makes people laugh.
Living with other people can be great but it can also mean we don’t get much alone time. Clearing out the box room so you have some space to yourself could be an option. Making the shed into a private haven could work for you. If you can’t carve out space for yourself maybe there’s a time of the day when everyone else is out or you can temporarily claim a room for yourself. You can always go out for a walk, go to the local library or visit a cafe for some peace and quiet.
Challenge and creativity
This is an area people can struggle with. You might see being creative as self indulgent but we all need to feel we’re achieving something, improving and learning in order to keep our minds healthy. You might be constantly challenged and be creative in your work, especially if you’re running your own business. Equally you could challenge yourself by taking up painting, learning a language, starting a vegetable patch or taking a dance class. You could even take up an old hobby you haven’t done in a while. Just because it’s enjoyable doesn’t mean it’s not important.
We all need to feel accomplished and recognized in some area of our lives. For some being a great parent, respected community leader or good friend can fulfil this need. For others they may gain their status from their position at work or being known as having a specialist area of expertise. Whether it’s from being a thought leader, compassionate neighbour, unofficial agony aunt to your friends, the go to guy at the allotments or a respected member of the amateur dramatics society we all need to feel recognized. If you don’t recognize where this is for you you may need to have a think about it or even ask a trusted friend for their perspective. You can always work on this by stepping up for responsibilities at your work or in clubs, looking for opportunities where you can use your skills to help others, mentoring juniors, volunteering or even spending more time with your family.
Being mindful of the mind body connection
There’s more and more evidence now of how the mind and body affect each other. If you’ve been burning the candle at both ends make a conscious decision to go to bed earlier next week. If you haven’t been eating well carve out some time at the weekend to make some nutritious meals for the week and freeze them. If you have the okay from your doctor maybe sign up for an exercise class or go for walks at lunchtime instead of sitting at your desk.
On activity can fulfill many needs
You’ll have noticed how a lot of this stuff overlaps. Like I said last time one activity can fulfill several needs so it’s not as much as it looks. Here is an example of one super activity that fulfills many of the needs.
Starting a walking club could fulfill your need to -
- Give and receive attention (making friends as you walk and talk)
- Challenge and creativity (marketing the club and coming up with new interesting routes)
- Purpose, goals and meaning (to make your local community happier and healthier)
- Being part of the community (providing a club for local people)
- Control and choice (choosing how to run the club, choosing the walk routes)
- Status (head of the club, appreciated by the members)
- Being mindful of the mind body connection (getting exercise)
I hope this has helped spark some ideas for you on how you can satisfy your human needs and help to keep yourself healthy and happy.