We have many universal human needs. The most basic are physical such as food, water, and shelter. Once we have these, we strive to meet our mental and emotional human needs.
When these fundamental human needs are met, we feel happy and fulfilled. Our health and wellbeing can improve massively as a result.
When one or more of these universal human needs are not met, you’ll feel bad or engage in addictive behaviors that allow these needs to be met in other ways.
These universal human needs come from the Human Givens Model. This is a method of psychotherapy that was developed in the U.K. Here they are:
1. Safety and Security
We all want to live in an environment that is free from excessive fear. When our environment feels insecure, unpredictable, or dangerous, our mental health can suffer.
Safety and security fall into three areas. Firstly financial security. This is feeling confident that we’re not going to lose our job, or lose our house. Secondly health. Feeling confident that our body will look after us for years to come. Thirdly physical safety. Living in an area where you feel reasonably safe walking the streets, or living with a partner that looks after you and won’t harm you.
2. Autonomy and Control
Life can be unpredictable and uncertain. However, deep down we need a sense of control and autonomy. When adversity strikes, some people rebound more quickly than others, because they have developed a good sense of internal control.
Internal control is about controlling your emotions, being assertive in relationships and making & acting on decisions. It’s also about knowing what you can directly control and what you can only influence.
If you struggle with internal control, then relax when the unexpected happens. This will give you a new perspective. If things outside of your control are making you feel anxious, then focus on other parts of your life that are going well and are more within your control.
The third universal human need is status. This is about feeling accepted and valued in different social groups such as work, family or friends.
If you are unable to get this feeling of status from normal day to day activities, consider volunteering or leading something in the community that will make a difference and feels important to you.
Privacy is having the time and space to reflect on life’s experiences. It’s time alone, “me time”, time to reflect on how things are going in your life. Time to consolidate your thoughts, and decide on the next step.
This is receiving attention from others and giving attention to others. Too much time alone can affect your mental and emotional state. The amount of attention varies among people. More extrovert people are likely to crave attention more, but we all need this at some level.
Meet the fundamental human need for attention by spending time with family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances or even pets. Catch up with old friends, or make new friends. Use the phone or Skype to interact with people that live a long way from you.
6. Connection to a wider community
The sixth universal human need is all about connecting with a larger group of people and feeling a sense of being part of that group. This takes the focus off yourself and your own issues. It allows you to do something that goes beyond meeting your own needs and involves helping to meet the needs of others. It’s also a great way to get out of your own head.
This sense of connection benefits your immune system, your mental health, and level of happiness and fulfillment. Consider joining a club to meet some like-minded people.
Think about what you’re really good at and share that with other people or teach them how to do it. We all have some skill or knowledge that we can share with others.
The seventh universal human need is intimacy. Intimacy (as defined by Human Givens) is an emotional connection with others. This includes friendship, love, intimacy, and fun. It’s the ability to share your ideas, hopes, and dreams with at least one other person. Typically this would be with a loving partner, but it could be with a close friend. As long as its someone that values who you are, understands you, and is willing to listen.
If you’re in a relationship, have a date night. Use this time to talk about your future, about where you’re going and your passions. Avoid talking about practical day to day issues such as money, work or the kids.
8. Look after your body
The eighth fundamental human need for a balanced life is looking after your body. Maybe you know this person. They thrive (apparently) on four or five hours sleep. They’re always first in the office. They skip lunch, believing that lunch is for wimps. They skip the gym because they’re too busy. If they feel tired, they grab a coffee. This lifestyle is not sustainable in the long term. Keep doing it and this will lead to psychological problems and stress-related illness.
It’s important to make time to look after your body. This includes getting enough good quality sleep, resting and relaxing, doing some exercise, eating healthily and visiting the doctor to get regular health checks done.
9. Competence and achievement
The ninth universal human need is having a sense of your own competence and your ability to achieve things. It’s having what it takes to meet life’s demands, feeling confident and that you’re making progress in life and achieving things.
If you have nothing to achieve or aim for, then learn a new skill. You could go to an evening class or learn online. Look back at what you enjoyed in the past. What hobbies did you have in the past that you don’t have time for now? Maybe you could start this hobby again and use that to help you meet this fundamental human need.
I also recommend setting goals in all areas of life, I start with yearly goals, then create monthly and weekly goals as stepping stones to meet my annual goals. By setting goals, you enjoy the satisfaction of watching your progress towards these goals.
10. Purpose and Meaning
The final fundamental human need is having a strong sense that your future plans are worthwhile and that you can achieve them. It’s about having beliefs and values that you stand by. Principles that guide your life.
Having a clear sense of purpose, direction and meaning will help your imagination work for you. You start to picture yourself doing things really well, thriving in new situations and becoming a different person.
People that lack a purpose or meaning in their life, often feel worthless, as if life has no meaning. They don’t see a reason for their existence. It feels like something’s missing and they feel bored or empty. As the imagination has no positive direction, it starts to focus on what’s not working and begins to fear and imagine the worst. So your imagination needs to go where you are going.
If you need more help with fulfilling this universal human need, then I suggest taking some time out to evaluate what you want to achieve in your life. Once decided, create a plan of action to do that.
Don’t spend months or years trying to figure out what your purpose or meaning in life is. There could be several that fit you equally well. Also, your purpose and meaning in life could well change over time. Go with what makes sense to you for now. What gives you the passion and excitement right now?
So these are the 10 universal human needs that bring lasting happiness and fulfillment. Identify the human needs that are lacking and take some steps now to better meet these human needs. You’ll be glad you did!