Announcement: Wish you could change the past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!

9 Basic Needs We Have to Meet to Feel Happy and Alive

Happy Man

“No person, no place, and no thing has any power over us, for ‘we’ are the only thinkers in our mind. When we create peace and harmony and balance in our minds, we will find it in our lives.” ~Louise L. Hay

Seven years ago I felt a tangible sense of despondency about where my life was heading.

Having ended a six-year relationship, I found myself alone, feeling isolated, often with only a bottle of wine (or two) for company on a weekend. For the first time ever I wondered if I had depression.

After weeks of feeling helpless and sitting on my sofa crying, I decided enough was enough and started taking action to turn my life around.

In doing so I discovered the “Human Givens Basic Needs.” Suddenly, everything made sense to me.

I realized I didn’t have depression; I just hadn’t been meeting my basic needs in a healthy and balanced way.

Working through the basic needs, I scored myself a number between one and ten for each, with ten being fully met.

After taking action and pursuing a new diploma, I reflected on how much better I was meeting my basic needs for control, creativity, and stimulation, and how much happier and alive I felt as a result.

I also recognized that I was meeting my need for status in a new way, as people were amazed when I told them what I was studying.

Seven years on, I have never forgotten the basic needs. Every six months I take a few hours to do a stock check of my life to see how well I am meeting each of the needs, and where I need to take action or do something different.

At the moment I am training for my third marathon, which is meeting so many of my basic needs in one hit!

People tell me how awesome it is that I am running a marathon (attention and status), I look after my body better (mind/body connection), I have a goal (purpose), and I’m doing something positive with my time (creativity, stimulation, and sense of control).

As we head into the New Year, I’d invite you to take an evening, curl up warm, put on some music you enjoy, and take a stock check of your life.

Look at each of the different needs and mark out of ten (ten being fully met) how well you are meeting each one, and how.

Where you are not meeting a need fully, don’t worry. Instead, think about what actions you can take to improve this area, and write down some steps to achieving that.

Rather than trying to improve every area of your life all at once, I suggest focusing first on meeting one need that would make a considerable difference in your life, and then moving on to another.

Like me with my marathon, you may find that while meeting one need, you end up meeting others naturally as a result.

Finally, put your stock check or action plan somewhere you can see it daily.

Take a Stock Check of Your Basic Human Needs

 1. The need for attention

We need quality attention from the people in our lives. More and more people in the world live alone. Unless your needs are being met elsewhere, a lack of attention can lead to low self-esteem, feelings of loneliness, and a lack of connection.

Join a meet up group, do an evening course, join a fitness group—anything that gets you out there and talking to like-minded people.

2. Mind-body connection

The way we look after ourselves physically directly impacts our psychological well-being. Feed your body good food and you’ll feel good. (That doesn’t mean pizza and wine!) Get out in the fresh air and get moving to get your serotonin and endorphins levels pumping, making you feel more alive.

3. Purpose and goals

Having a purpose or goal adds meaning to your life. Sign up for a 5K charity run, take up a night class, or volunteer for a local charity. Use your time to do the things you enjoy.

4. Connection to something greater than ourselves

A sense of connection to like-minded people or others who share your perceptions and work for a common goal is important. I chose to run one of my marathons for a homeless charity, for example.

It may be being part of a group raising awareness about a shared cause, or working for an organization that shares your values.

5. Creativity and stimulation

Boredom and a lack of achievement can leave you feeling unsatisfied and depressed. Spending time reading about a subject that interests you, learning a new skill or craft, or doing anything that stimulates the creative part of your brain will see you feeling happier and more stimulated.

6. Sense of security and safety

Without a sense of security and safety you can feel anxious. You don’t have to own your home to feel secure. Security can come from having a supportive partner and family or even changing your beliefs about what security and safety mean to you.

7. Intimacy and connection

It’s important to feel that at least one person really knows you for who you are. Intimacy and connection don’t require a romantic partner; it can just be a close relationship with someone, even your pet!

8. Sense of control  

Feeling that you have no control in a given situation or in life can lead to feelings of hopelessness. In some cases people will over-control to compensate for feeling helpless. Trying to control people and situations you have no influence over will only suck your energy. Control the one thing you can—you.

9. The need for status

Being recognized for your talents helps meet your need for status. Take action to do something you have always wanted to do, such as a jewelry-making course, signing up to a sporting group, taking up dressmaking, or volunteering your talents where they would be well received.

Small changes in your life can create a big ripple effect, and, like me, you may be surprised by how much happier, healthier, and alive you will feel as a result.

 Happy man image via Shutterstock

Profile photo of Sara Maude

About Sara Maude

Sara Maude is an international Solution Focused Psychotherapist, Hypnotherapist, EFT practitioner, and Advanced Theta Healer. Having worked with hundreds of clients to help them achieve their goals, she provides 1 - 1 sessions in Edinburgh, Scotland, and worldwide over Skype. Visit her at

See a typo, an inaccuracy, or something offensive? Please contact us so we can fix it!
Announcement: Tired of feeling stuck? Learn to let go of the past and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Very nice article. The 10 items of basic human needs are quite good and useful. One can pick up activities and goals that fulfill these are pursue it. Thanks for sharing!

  • FlashTwinkie

    Thanks for such a helpful article. A great list to reflect on

  • Sara,

    Thanks for this insightful post ! Most of the points you mentioned are very relevant to most of us.

  • Linzi Clark

    A timely post as we enter into a New Year. I did my first trek last year and loved the fitness challenge it involved – I’m definitely looking for another similar challenge this year.

  • Inner Seer

    Hi Sara,
    This article is both practical and timely. We’re heading in to 2016, and it’s always good to assess where we are at the beginning of a new year. It’s a way to bring change in to our lives, one small need at a time. Having a system to measure each need, without feeling pressured to always measure a 10 out of 10 is a huge relief. It’s simply a tool, and it’s a very good one.
    Thank you for this; it was lovely. 🙂
    Be blessed,

  • Lily

    my estreme self-loathing and bashing has taken a Dangerous path. I’m costantly bombed by negative, hurtful thoughts and scenarios where I can’t help but making a fool out of myself and fucking everything up. Sometimes enjoyful moments are shattered by bitter, unjust memories. I can’t help but feeling empty, worthless and helpless, checking other girls lives give me a bit of “relief” ’cause I wish I was like them, lead the life they lead. I feel pathetic, stupid and uncompetent and mediocre, and this feeling get enforced everytime Others treat me poorly. I know I’m probably abusing myself but I just can’t find a positive, Worth-of-note thing about myself. I hate how everytime I try and make my life better, I still feel empty and blank. My head feels like a mess, I really can’t discipline it in thinking productively and positively. In fact I wasn’t able to use Law of Attraction to my advantage ’cause I really can’t act “as if”, I can’t visualize or stay disciplined.

  • Sara Maude

    Hi Rylie, thank you so much for your comments. I’m delighted that this is a tool that you can utilise as you head into 2016. Happy New Year 🙂

  • Sara Maude

    Hi Lily, I am sorry to read about the pain you currently find yourself in. It’s difficult to manage your thoughts and emotions when you are, as you described, locked into such a negative state of mind. It sounds like you would really benefit from working with a trained practitioner such as an EFT practitioner, Matrix Reimprinting or Psychotherapist. I’d suggest if you really want to feel the amazing being that I know you are, that you find a therapist near where you live and give yourself the best gift that you can to help you move into a happier and more self loving place.

  • Sara Maude

    Good for you Linzi! When I did my first marathon it met so many of my basic needs in one hit and I felt amazing! Happy New Year!

  • Sara Maude

    Thank you Drum, I trust it proved insightful for you. Happy New Year to you 🙂

  • Sara Maude

    Thanks Flash! Happy New Year to you!

  • Sara Maude

    Thanks Lennae, I am glad it proved helpful as a foundation to build your life. Happy New Year!

  • Sara Maude

    Thank you for your kind words Braja. I’m pleased you found it useful. When you meet all of your basic needs in a healthy balanced way, you can’t not feel great!

  • this is so great. I feel like so many people are always so focused on finding happiness in ONE area of their lives.. they forget that it is a diverse need that you must fill in more than one place! I am saving this list. so great! Thank you for writing !

  • Sara Maude

    Thank you for your comments! Great to read about your excitement! Delighted this has been a source of help and inspiration for you!

  • Tiju

    Hi Sara,
    Can i ask you one thing? Its all true that you have mentioned and i took the quiz too. But sometimes in my life i couldn’t find peace or happines even if i am in the middle of happy people.What is with me to be get changed.
    Any how it was so nice and peaceful to read your ideas and feeling happy that i can find some happines around here.
    Feeling pleasent in this morning.

  • Sara Maude

    Hi Tiju, the subject of finding happiness can be an elusive one, and often it is seen as the holy grail. Although I suggest that peace and happiness are different emotions. Peace can be achieved by quieting your mind through meditation for example. Having your basic human needs met in healthy balanced way will help you to feel happier within yourself. So I’d suggest if you have reviewed your basic needs, look at what changes you can make in your life that can help you to feel happier. Even if it’s something simple like taking control and starting your day in a different way that helps to set the tone for feeling better. I hope that helps.

  • Zara

    There is much wisdom in this article. I strongly believe depression and other forms of mental suffering have their origin primarily in unmet, fundamental needs. Only now, after 12 years of anguish and mental pain, am I beginning to realize the fact that I am only human and have emotional and spiritual needs. For too long I’ve ignored them since I wasn’t raised to be open about feelings and problems and this has cost me a great deal: time (the most precious commodity on earth), relationships, opportunities and almost my life at a certain point. Now I only want to pursue positive relationships, love, beauty and meaning. Anyone who thinks he or she has the right to negatively influence my life or force their beliefs or morality upon me will be ignored and discarded. Life is too precious to be wasted and from now on I only want to spend it with positive, worthwhile people.

    I applaud you for taking charge of your own life and working to make it flourish. It’s good to read about positive examples, this is much more valuable than simple ‘to do’ lists that are so often found on the web. We should all strive to change for the better and with a little mutual understanding and caring life really isn’t so bad after all. Something I simply couldn’t believe for such a long time. Hell and heaven truly are formed by one’s own thoughts and convictions.

  • Sara Maude

    Hi Zara – thank you so much for your insightful comments. I am sorry to read of the pain you have been in, but very happy to read how you are recognising how to overcome that in your life. Working with the basic human needs I come back to them time and time again with my clients and more often than not, people’s source of unhappiness or depression is a lack of meeting basic needs. Wishing you a wonderful, healthy and happy 2016 x

  • Zara

    Thank you, I wish you the same things for the new year.

    I’m still not well but at least I’m talking about my emotions and have come to realize what my priorities are and what mistakes I made in the past that I should avoid in the future. What I need is meaningful relationships and ultimately love: without it I drown in a sea of misery. Funny how I didn’t realize that before. I don’t know whether or not I’ll make it in the end but I’m more hopeful than I’ve been in a very long time. I guess that’s something, isn’t it?

  • Sara Maude

    Hi Zara, apologies, I’ve only just clocked that you replied to my comment! We all need love, albeit the greatest love we need is self love. Your relationships will be meaningful when the relationship you have with yourself is meaningful. I’d invite you to be mindful about your language – ‘I don’t know whether or not I’ll make it in the end’…..saying that creates self doubt and wobble – you have a choice whether you make it! But saying statements like that prevent you from making it.