How to have a healthy mind
We know plants need light, water and nutrients to flourish but for humans it’s more complicated than that. Human Givens psychology has identified a number of needs beyond warmth, shelter and nutrition which all humans share to some degree. If these needs aren’t met over an extended length of time they can lead to low self esteem, lack of confidence, anxiety, depression, addiction or other psychological problems. So on the flip side fulfilling these needs really helps to return us to being emotionally well balanced.
Before I get into what the needs are I just want to say that this isn’t something for you to obsess over and make sure you’re meeting all of the needs, every day. Life doesn’t always go to plan so the idea is to meet most of your needs most of the time. Plus for some people it might be enough to do something once or twice a week to fulfil a certain need while for others they feel they need more. So you don’t need to be ticking 100% for each box. In fact just by making progress towards getting your needs met you will start to feel better. If you feel down or anxious you can scan through the needs and notice which ones you feel aren’t being met adequately. When you’ve identified what you’re missing you can make a plan to fulfil it more of the time.
The basic human needs for a healthy mind
Security, safety and privacy
You’re probably not surprised by this one. It’s difficult to feel good if you don’t feel safe most of the time. We all need a base of operation where we feel secure and safe to be ourselves and grow. We also need to be able to have alone time sometimes so we can reflect and consolidate.
To give and receive attention
Humans are social creatures and we all to some extent have a need to interact with others. Too much isolation isn’t good for the mind and we need to regulate what we think and feel by being with others, listening to them and feeling listened to ourselves.
Control and choice
We all need to feel a sense of control over our own lives. In studies elderly people have lived longer on average when they’ve been given the responsibility to look after a plant and decide when and how often to water it. There’s a lot of things in life we can’t control but there are always things we can like the hobbies we do, how we look after ourselves, how we treat others etc.
Having at least one person who knows you well, who you can share your dreams with and who has your back. It could be a spouse, family member or friend. This could involve calling your family regularly or getting to know someone more to develop a deeper friendship.
Being a part of the community
Feeling like you’re contributing or are part of a community. This could be by being a member of a religious group, a club, charity or local community group. It gives us an outward perspective and reason for being bigger than ourselves.
Purpose, goals and meaning
Our brains are designed to solve problems. If we don’t have any to solve we can find ourselves making them up. When you’re working towards something it engages the mind and moves you towards hope and away from fear.
Challenge and creativity
To explore, learn and improve. Doing new things and having a sense of progress keeps us from getting bored and adds to our self worth.
We all need to feel important in some area of our lives but status can mean different things to different people. For you it could be being recognized by your family for giving good advice, being respected by your clients for doing good work, being appreciated as a good friend or known in the community for the volunteer work you do.
Healthy body, healthy mind
To have a healthy mind you have to take care of your body too. Lack of sleep, exercise and good nutrition can all impact on your mental health.
Now that can sound like a lot of plates to spin! But remember often times one activity will meet several of your needs. Your job might provide you with challenge, status, control and purpose. Volunteering could fulfil your need to be part of a community, to give and receive attention, to have challenge and creativity, and status.
Getting your needs met by multiple activities will make you more resilient when change occur. For example if you gain status from your job and your volunteer work and you’re made redundant you will still be fulfilling your need for status from your volunteer work. If you fulfil your need to give and receive attention by meeting a number of friends regularly if one friend moves away you’ll still be meeting your needs.
Next week I’ll be exploring more ways to meet your basic human needs, increase your confidence and boost your self esteem.