Basic Needs



Our friend Abigael bought a tomato plant in the summer. She felt sorry for it in its tiny pot of parched earth… So she put it on her window sill and nursed it back to health with water and sunlight. But what’s this got to do with your health?

Well, you’re a lot like the tomato plant! There aren’t really all that many things that your mind and body need in order to be happier, healthier and heartier… According to Human Givens Psychology, there are just nine – and how you meet these needs is up to you! This Info Sheet tells you more…

What is Human Givens Psychology?
This branch of psychology shows how an inability to meet your ‘Basic Needs’ for a long period leads to addictions, anxiety, depression and more. But, just like Abigael’s tomato plant, it’s quite easy to work out what your Basic Needs are.

Survival Needs
It more or less goes without saying that you need shelter, water, food and so on… We’re going to assume you’ve got these sorted, and truck on!

The Body / Mind Connection
You’re probably used to plugging your phone in and recharging it, right? Well, no matter how little or much you use your phone, you realise that if it’s physically out of power, then absolutely none of its features or functions work. That’s more or less true of your mind and body, too. If you eat, drink, relax, sleep and exercise poorly then you won’t be able to function all that well.

To that end, feel free to check our other Info Sheets to see how you can better meet this need… In particular, take a look at these links:

Almost everybody wants to spend a little bit of time on their own… But how much ‘alone time’ is too much? In fact, it’s not a lot: a long period of isolation – time in which you neither get nor give attention – quickly has a deleterious effect on you.

So what’s the best way to give and get healthy attention? Unsurprisingly it’s NOT through making cloying posts on social media! Rather – and this is excellent news – it’s regularly meeting up with friends. Recent studies show that meeting with mates twice a week has a positive effect on your wellbeing. So there you have it – a pretty good excuse to see more of the people you want to see more of!

This relates closely to the above, but it’s slightly different. By ‘Intimacy’ we mean more than just ‘banter’ with buddies – many people with hundreds of so-called friends on Facebook would admit that very few of them form part of an intimate support group.
So when we say intimacy, we mean having a person, or a number of people in your life with whom you can share your self… Not only your hopes, values and ideas but also your fears, thoughts and concerns; people that know the real you – and, as the old joke goes, love you just the same!

Community and Contribution
In a society that – to some at least – appears increasingly to focus on "Looking out for number one", this ‘Basic Need’ may seem counterintuitive. One might think that being free to do and get what you want, without worrying about people around you, gives you an edge! But in fact, being part of a larger and like-minded group is extremely important to your own psychological health.

Studies show that having ‘a reason for being’ beyond your own needs protects your happiness, mental health and – perhaps surprisingly – your immune system. Interestingly, while actively looking out for others helps make you healthier, it seems not to really matter what kind of community you’re part of: clubs, charities, school groups, churches or neighbourhood organisations… They’ll all help your health if you’re helping them!

A Sense of Purpose
If you’ve ever worked for a boss, or lived with a partner, who ignores what you achieve and makes you feel as if the things you do are pointless, you already know how quickly and profoundly you can be made to feel miserable… But imagine that feeling right across your life; a feeling that nothing in your life has a sense of purpose. It’s quite a depressing thought!

As a species, we have a need to be working towards something – as opposed to merely avoiding something else! It fires our imaginations and engages the skills we have for problem solving, as well as generating the feeling of satisfaction we get from achieving our goals. Be sure to see our Info Sheet on Goal Setting here: 

Challenge and Creativity
By now it might be becoming apparent that all of these Basic Needs link up and feed in to one another! For example, it’s all very well having a Sense of Purpose and setting yourself a goal – but if the goal doesn’t challenge you, or allow you to exercise your creativity, the satisfaction you get from achieving it will be lessened.

When we use the word ‘creativity’, though, we should clarify that ‘stimulation’ is an equally good word. We’re not saying you need to paint pictures or mould pots from clay to be creative! We’re saying you need to do new things: learn, grow, explore… Try new things and stimulate your mind.

Safety and Security
You might have a very comfortable life and be hugely happy in many ways… But people that don’t have a sense of safety – those that feel insecure – are quick to suffer from psychological malaise. Whether the cause is a change in work circumstances, a deserting spouse, a financial crisis, or a health scare, we’re all made weaker by worry.

For that reason, one way to feel more secure is to ask if you’re keeping things in perspective. Things that can seem overwhelming at one point are often relegated to the backwaters of silly anecdote when re-examined after time… Remember, too, that your imagination is designed to help you improve your situation; it’s part of your innate problem-solving ‘toolbox’… It’s only when your imagination is used to worry about possible negative outcomes that it becomes part of the problem. Put simply, anxiety is caused by a misuse of the imagination.

That said, of course, it might be that your environment – or a specific thing or person – has caused you to feel insecure or unsafe. Clearly, dealing with these situations falls outside the scope of this sheet. Perhaps, though, now might be a good time to consider what needs to change to improve those circumstances in a positive way.  

A Sense of Control
Ever felt your life was spinning out of control? That you’re powerless to affect or change anything that’s happening around you? If not, perhaps you can take our word for it when we say it’s a horrible feeling. You can imagine, then, how important it is for your psychology to feel like you are in control of some elements of your life. Take a look at this hypnotherapeutic session from our friends at Hypnosis Downloads to find out more:

As you move through your life you’ll play many different roles: child, employee, partner; parent maybe, grandparent… These are the obvious roles but you might identify with many, many others: friend, boss, grandchild, horticulture-society member – who knows what else?! For some of these roles you may never get much credit or thanks, but it’s important to get some recognition for who you are and what you do… And no, we’re not saying you have to be the world’s best at anything in order to achieve status: it’s about having a sense of worth rather than authority.

Who has time to do all this?!
It’s hard to separate the things that are important from the things that are urgent… We think the author Stephen Covey puts it well in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He tells a story to the effect that a woodcutter is working enormously hard to cut down a tree using an old, blunt handsaw… To the young man, who has been watching for some time, it seems to be a strain. He asks the old woodcutter, "What are you doing?"

The woodcutter replies, "Obviously, I’m cutting down this tree!" Perplexed, the youngster says, "With that blunt saw? Why not take a break and sharpen it?" to which the woodcutter answers, "It’s taken ages as it is: I don’t have time to take a break…"
As Covey goes on to suggest "Sharpening the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in your life."

For that reason we wrote an Info Sheet on saving time so that you can make more time to look after yourself. Here’s a link to that sheet:

Keep in mind, too…
…that multiple Basic Needs might be met by one activity. For example, volunteering to read to children at a local library might meet the needs of Status, Contribution/Community, Creativity and, perhaps, Purpose. Arranging to go running with a friend once a week could help meet the needs of Body / Mind and Attention.

You can find out more about the Human Givens in this book:

To find out how exercise helps you lead a happier, healthier life, drop us a line here at the Back in Shape clinic, either in person, by phone – on 020 8655 1664 – or by email via [email protected]

Back in Shape cannot accept responsibility for the consequences of any action or inaction based on its Newsletter or Info Sheets. If you have any doubts or concerns over medical and health issues, our best advice is always to pop in to see us, visit your GP or call NHS Direct on 111 to discuss your health.