By: Jonathan Pishner

There are a lot of complicated concepts in the field of psychology. But some things are simple enough and useful enough that anyone can use it to help make their life better. One of the simplest and most beneficial ideas is our Psychological Needs. This is the first of a series of posts dedicated to helping you meet your psychological needs.

Each person has five psychological needs. Usually, when your needs are met, you feel good. When they aren’t met, you feel bad. How much more simple can it get?

Today I’m going to introduce you to the five psychological needs, and you can decide for yourself if you’re meeting them.

Survival:
This is the most basic of the needs. It encompasses all of the things a human needs to keep living: food, water, shelter, air, etc. Your brain is hardwired for Survival, and it is keenly aware of any risk that you won’t meet this need.

The way our world is structured, you also need a certain amount of money to meet your Survival need. When you don’t have enough money, your ability to pay rent or buy groceries is threatened, which leads to anything from a sense of unease to a feeling of impending doom.

How to meet this need:
You would think that this would be the simplest psychological need to meet, but many people struggle with it. You have to attend to your basic nutrition, hydrate properly, have a secure place to stay, and have enough money to keep having these things. If any of these is lacking, your Survival need will feel unmet.

When your Survival need goes unmet, it generally makes you feel anxious and fearful, or just psychologically drained.

Having trouble meeting your Survival need? Read the in-depth article here.

Belonging:
Humans are social creatures, and almost all of us require some time around others to feel well. Different people experience a need for Belonging differently. Some get it met primarily through a love relationship. Others will tend to meet their Belonging need through family, or through friends. And some will meet their Belonging need through their membership in a group, such as a local organization, the military, or at their day job.

If your Belonging need goes unmet, you will feel lonely.

How to meet this need:
Some people get this need met by default, so they never have to think about it. What you might not realize is that if it’s unmet, you might have to intentionally work on it, instead of letting it happen on its own. If you want to be around other people, and you have nobody, you will have to learn surround yourself with the people you need.

Having trouble meeting your Belonging need? Read the in-depth article here.

Fun:
Yes, Fun is a psychological need. If you are going to feel well, Fun is simply not optional. Just because you’re grown up, you’re not allowed to neglect your need to enjoy things. It’s sad that so many people live in misery because they do exactly that.

The best way to describe it is to say that you should spend time each day doing something enjoyable. Notice I said it has to be enjoyable, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a leisure activity. Some people are fortunate enough to have a job that also meets their need for Fun. If your work does not meet this need, then you’ll have to put some extra effort into meeting it.

When this need is unmet, you might often feel bored, apathetic, or resentful.

How to meet this need:
It’s hard for me to give suggestions on how to meet your Fun need, because there are so many options. The more something excites you, the more completely it will meet your need for Fun, whether it’s building a new staircase, playing chess, or skydiving. This is a need where you might just have to try a lot of things to see what meets your need.

Having trouble meeting your Fun need? Read the in-depth article here.

Freedom:
This is where humans start to get a little complex. What is Freedom? We have a need for it, but each of us experience it a little differently. If I were to sum it up in one sentence, I would say Freedom is the ability to do the things you want to do, when you want to do them. You have a need to create the life you want. The more that need is restricted, the more unwell you feel. When you’re making progress in getting what you want, your Freedom need is met.

People with a high need for Freedom can have difficulty working at a lot of jobs, and can have problems with long-term relationships. In many ways, people with a low Freedom need can be happy more easily. But even if you have a particularly high need in this category, we live in an age where almost any job or lifestyle can be available, if you’re willing to do the work to get it.

When this need is unmet, you will feel trapped, bored, angry or hopeless.

How to meet your need for Freedom:
This largely depends on what is causing you to feel trapped, but I’ve noticed three things that can cause more difficulty with Freedom than others. These will tend to be your job, your love relationship, or your family. Stop right there and take a breath. It’s not time to quit your job or get divorced just yet. There are a lot of ways to tend to your Freedom need without taking such permanent actions. But it might mean you need to negotiate some kind of change.

Having trouble meeting your Freedom need? Read the in-depth article here.

Power:
This might be the most misunderstood of the psychological needs. Power in this case does not mean Power over other people. As a psychological need, Power is the ability to affect your life and the world around you in the way you want. For example, if you want to help others, and you volunteer for a local charitable organization, you are meeting your Power need because of your positive effect on your community.

When your need for Power is very high, it can make life tough on you and on the other people in your life. You have to pay close attention to meeting it while also not being obnoxious to the world around you. The easiest way to do this is to focus on being effective in your life. That requires having a deep understanding of what you truly want for your life and how possible it truly is. It might mean working hard to change your circumstances, and being very patient as you work toward the life you want.

When your Power need goes unmet, you will usually feel helpless or bitter.

Having trouble meeting your Power need? Read the in-depth article here.

Summary
Those are your five psychological needs. The better you are able to meet them, the more happiness you will have in your daily life.

Most people never think about their psychological needs, and don’t know that they can fix the ones that are unmet. If you are having trouble meeting one of your needs, please read the in-depth article on that need.