Linda: A need is anything that is an essential component to promote well-being in our lives. Although these needs are not essential to your survival, they are essential to experience happiness. You can’t have a high level of well-being unless all these needs are being fulfilled. Take a few minutes to assess which of these needs are being met and which may need more attention.

1) The Need for Sustenance

Sustenance is whatever is required in order to sustain life on a physical level. Our fundamental basic needs for food, water, sleep, and shelter for protection are our primary needs to maintain the body. We are preoccupied with primary needs until they are consistently met, then we have freed up to concern ourselves with the higher needs which are emotional, psychological, and spiritual in nature.

2) Need for Rest, Relaxation, and Rejuvenation

Whenever there is an unfulfilled need, there is always a symptom. The symptom will illuminate the need. They show up in the body, the mood, or the mind to point to what the deficiency is. From there, you can identify what need or needs are not being met. One example would be having a lack of focus, irritability, low threshold for frustration, fatigue, a sense of powerlessness, or apathy in one’s life.

3) Need for Safety, Security, and Protection

The need for safety and security has to do with having a sense of trust. This trust is built on inner confidence in one’s ability to meet life’s challenges adequately and a trust that others can and will provide support when needed. Safety is a function of having a combination of both internal and external conditions in place in our life.

4) Need for Community and Connection

A community is a collection of people brought together through shared concerns. It is not necessarily limited to a geographical area. People can live in different parts of the country and feel a part of a community if they share similar values and practices. People who share a religious belief can feel a part of a national or even global affiliation with others who share the same views.

5) The Need Play

Most people see play as a luxury that children get to experience until they grow up and become “responsible adults.” They see play as a child’s activity. We are asserting that play in no way conflicts with being a responsible adult, but in fact, is the responsibility of an adult to see to it that his or her life has a sufficient amount of play in it. To allow yourself to be play-deprived is irresponsible. Play isn’t simply a luxury permitted to children but is a requirement for a healthy, balanced, and integrated life for people of all ages.

6) The Need for Autonomy

Self-trust is less about “doing what I want to do” and more a matter of accumulating the wisdom that is cultivated through years of practicing self-awareness, self-reflection, and commitment to learning from the results of life choices. Trusting one’s self doesn’t mean rejecting all outside opinions. It combines the openness of a child’s mind with the understanding of an adult whose wisdom has been deepened through learning and integrating life lessons.

7) The Need for Creative Expression

We are all uniquely individual beings. Creativity has to do with ways that we express that uniqueness that is specific to us, and that affirms our own value and unique gifts in ways that contribute to the quality of life of others as well. The act of expressing and sharing our gifts is inherently fulfilling. As we exercise this capacity, we affirm our own value and worth.

8) The Need for Purpose and Meaning

We can survive without a sense of purpose in our lives, but we can’t experience fulfillment. The purpose is the inner compass that gives meaning to our behavior and provides us with the sense that our time spent on the earth serves a greater end than the satisfaction of our own personal desires. Purpose expands our identity from that of a small insignificant entity whose existence doesn’t much matter in the overall scheme of things to that of a valuable contributor to something far greater than that. When we are grounded in a sense of purpose, we don’t just believe that what we do matters, but that who we are does.

9) The Need for Learning, Growth, and Challenge

Some people don’t even believe that adults are still supposed to be learning. They have the idea that learning goes on in childhood when we are going to school. They don’t have the concept of lifelong learning. Happy people continue the learning curve all through their lives. They welcome challenges because of the opportunity for growth that comes with it.

10) The Need for Love: It Is Just as Important to Give Love as to Receive It

Love is a universal need that is essential to our well-being and is the most important need of all. Love is not just a warm feeling towards another person. It has to do with a desire to enhance their well-being and caring about their quality of life. We are talking about both giving and receiving love. Receiving love is very important, but if you are focused only on receiving, you will not be fulfilled no matter how much love you get. This is because receiving love only partially fulfills the need for love. Giving can only fulfill one part of the need for love.

Exercise: Which of these needs must you pay closer attention to in order to thrive?

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Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW, married since 1972, are experts in the field of relationships and have published four successful books.

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