What are our Basic Needs? (part 2)

fullsizeoutput_25So, what are our human needs and aspirations? If I can separate my true needs, from the multitude of things others ask me to believe are “needs,” then I can make decisions about how to spend my life. Abraham Maslow back in 1949 stated that we have five levels of need. The levels are like a pyramid each one must be at least partially satisfied before we can stack another on top.

The foundation is Basic Needs or Biological Needs. In addition to nutritious food, safe water, and breathable air, we humans have other less obvious physical requirements. Among them is protection from the elements.

Unlike some animals that adapt to excessively hot or cold extremes, our ancestors had to use their large brains and opposable thumbs to make clothing, tools, and dwellings. It wasn’t long until fire to stave off the cold of winter and the dark of night became a requirement for survival.

Shelter from the elements, clothing for warmth (and modesty), are required so we can function and do our jobs. That is just as true today as in the days of cave dwellers.

Most people, including Maslow, classified sex as one of the essential human needs. While it is true that the species requires sexual reproduction for survival, and the sex drive is a strong instinct, for many of us, the intimacy of sexual activity transcends basic needs. We will talk more about sex when discussing the third level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs—Belonging.

However, there is at least one more Basic Human Need; we must lift up—Sleep. It has been noted, that a large percentage of individuals in the US, and probably more other so-called developed countries, are sleep deprived. The lack of quality sleep takes its toll on our health, family life, and ability to focus on the task at hand.

Back when I was in graduate school, it was expected that anyone working in my field would spend about fifty hours per week. Many put in fifty-five to sixty hours on a regular basis. A few years out of school, I ran upon a study indicating that efficiency goes down rapidly after forty hours a week or beyond eight to nine hours a day. So, each additional hour of activity (beyond the optimum) produces less accomplishment per hour than the previous one. There even comes the point where the mistakes we make, take longer to correct than the additional progress.

More recent studies indicate that teenagers—those people who “never sleep”—actually need more rest than their younger siblings, or when they reach their twenties. All those hormonal changes affect more than sex drive and attitude.

Religious traditions encourage a day of rest or times of regular meditation. Those traditions knew something about human needs that we seem to have forgotten or simply ignore. Even those with no belief in God or commitment to a faith tradition could benefit from the practice of taking a day of rest or refocusing on relationships, self-care, and personal reflection.

I am probably not the only one to have taken a “vacation” only to return more stressed and in need of a rest. That is partly because, as a culture, we don’t know how to relax. Many of us “plan” our vacations the same way we structure our work—fill all available time with activity.

The day of rest has to do with changing our focus. I remember a minister’s spouse who taught school during the week but on Sunday afternoon could be seen working in her flower or vegetable garden. She was criticized by a “holier-than-thou” type member of the congregation for not “observing the Sabbath day properly.” The critic was reminded that apart from Sunday afternoon not being the Sabbath day, the point of a day of rest was never to simply be idle but to engage in activity that will renew the spirit and mind for next week. For this person getting out into nature and enjoying the beauty of flowers, or tomatoes is “rest” from making lesson plans, reading and grading papers, or attending faculty meetings.

What is work for one person is rest for another. While painting, woodworking, or traveling may be great pastimes for an executive but probably not for those who work in those areas. A traveling salesperson may want to spend time off cooking, reading, visiting a local gallery, or working in their basement. It’s important to look for what feeds you, during your downtime.


Next time we will talk about what we need to be safe. For now, friends what do you think should be considered “basic” in your life? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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