Last Updated: Tuesday, July 03, 2023
The importance of taking care of our basic needs.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
Back to basics: food, water, shelter, sleep
How stress impacts our health and our ability to meet our basic needs.
The impacts of time pressure on the ability to meet basic needs.
The Basics of Wellness
We often hear about the benefits of taking care of our physical health. For example, eating healthy and regular exercise helps boost our immune system to fight off viruses and prevent other illnesses such as heart disease.
Well, it turns out that the same applies to our mental health. We can help prevent and reduce mental health symptoms by caring for them just as we would for our physical health. And we do so by first taking care of meeting our basic physiological needs.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
You may be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Abraham Harold Maslow was an American psychologist best known for creating Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is represented by a five-tier pyramid & is used to study how humans intrinsically partake in behavioural motivation.
Maslow used the terms “physiological”, “safety”, “belonging and love”, “social needs” or “esteem”, and “self-actualization” to describe the pattern through which human motivation generally moves. This means that in order for motivation to arise at the next stage, each stage must be satisfied within the individual themselves.
At the very bottom of the pyramid, and the first stage of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, is physiological needs.
Our physiological needs are “biological requirements that enable humans to survive;” for example: air, food, drink, shelter, clothing, warmth, sex, sleep. When these needs are not met the human body cannot function optimally.
Back to Basics
There are different theories as to how many basic needs we actually have, and what those basic needs are. Since Maslow's list of basic needs was first published, there have been over 75 years of psychology, neuroscience, and sociology research that have produced the following list of basic needs:
Food – The body needs calories and a variety of nutrients including protein, fat, and carbohydrates everyday to grow, function, and repair. Without food, the body begins to atrophy.
Water – Ample hydration allows for the processes of the body to occur. Without water the body cannot process food or remove wastes.
Shelter – We require protection from blazing sun, freezing temperatures, wind, and rain. Without shelter, human skin and organs are damaged from extreme temperatures.
Sleep – 6–9 hours of sleep every 24 hours allows the brain to process new knowledge and deal with emotional information. Without ample sleep we cannot learn new things or get past emotional pain. In addition, the quality of our sleep is just as important as the number of hours slept.
Others – Adults require physical and emotional connection with other humans to release certain hormones like oxytocin. Human touch is so important that when we are young, our brains don’t develop correctly without it. Regular connection to others allows us to maintain a sense of well-being that allows for self-care. It allows us to feel truly seen and heard.
On a physiological level, when these three basic needs (water, food, & sleep) aren’t met, there is an increase of contracting illnesses, diseases, viruses. These basic needs also have an impact on our mental health, and, when not met, can further impact our mental health by exacerbating symptoms that may already have been present (anxiety, depression).
There have been a multitude of studies over the years that have looked at the impacts of chronic stress on health. For example, one study including a Finish worker-sample from 1997 demonstrated that “lack of energy” affected 61% of women and 53% of men; sleeping problems 38% of women and 33% of men (Letho and Suthela, 1999, p. 46f.). 62% of the Finish respondents perceived an “increased pace of work” compared to 46% in 1977. This stress situation coincided with health problems such as fatigue and apathy (less in physical exhaustion).
We know very well that human beings aren’t immune from catching viruses. We know that we can take certain measures to prevent catching a virus such as washing our hands frequently or getting our daily vitamins from healthy foods to help boost our immune system. If we do catch a virus, there are also steps that we can take to help reduce the symptoms such as staying hydrated, or taking certain over-the-counter medication to ease some of the symptoms. The same applies to our mental health. There are steps that we can take to prevent or help reduce mental health symptoms, like maintaining a good sleep cycle to make sure that we are cognitively functioning at our best during the day and keeping stress and anxiety away. Good sleeping patterns isn’t going to cure your anxiety, however, it can help reduce symptoms.
We often overlook the importance of meeting our basic needs and the impacts that they may have on our mental wellness or our mental health recovery. Many of us often neglect meeting our basic needs due to the high-demands of life.
I do believe that the younger generations are growing up to believe that inner pressure and chronic stress is normal, when it's not. Time pressure is having an impact on our mental and physical health and very likely having an impact on our ability to meet our basic needs.
The question that we must ask ourselves – are we taking good care of our physical and mental health? Are we able to meet our basic physiological needs every day?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Brown, Stephanie, Dr. (2014). Society's Addiction to Faster Living is Destroying Us. New York Post. https://nypost.com/2014/01/04/societys-addiction-to-faster-living-is-destroying-us-doctor/
Garhammer, M. Pace of Life and Enjoyment of Life (2002). Journal of Happiness Studies · February 2002 DOI: 10.1023/A:1020676100938 · Source: RePEc
Health.com (2018). https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.health.com/condition/sleep/sleeping-in-weekend%3famp=true
Mayo Clinic. (2016). Insomnia Symptoms & Causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355167