What are the 10 basic human needs? (Explained)

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Psychologist Abraham Maslow identified that our behaviour is motivated by achieving certain goals. If these goals are not met, then we are unable to feel complete or fulfilled. Our goals can be arranged in a hierarchical stack called ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’. This shows us that once our most basic physiological needs (such as food and shelter) are met, we can then explore our ‘higher’ needs (such as love and esteem).

The following article looks at the 10 basic human needs:

  1. Physiological Needs (e.g. Food, water, sleep)
  2. Safety Needs (e.g. Personal security, financial security)
  3. Love/belonging (e.g. friendship, intimacy)
  4. Esteem (e.g. achievement, reputation, status)
  5. Self-actualization (e.g. reaching one’s full potential)
  6. Knowledge (e . g . understanding, education)
  7. Creativity (e . g . exploration, innovation, expression)
  8. Spirituality (e.g. awareness of the beyond, connection to something greater than us)
  9. Contribution (e . g .. service, altruism )
  10. Fun/enjoyment (e . g .. relaxation, pleasure, play)
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10 Basic Human Needs (explained)

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1. Physiological Needs (e . g .. Food, water , sleep )

“Physiological needs refer to the most basic of human needs” . It is essential that we obtain food and water in order to survive. If these physiological needs are not met, then we will perish. Our safety needs arise when our physiological needs are met. We then need to feel safe and secure . This means that we need to know that our life will continue on, even if our income or employment is lost (e.g. financial security).

Food: Food is a very obvious example of the need for physiological requirements. Without food, we will die within a couple of weeks at most. Water: Water is another essential human need that we require in order to survive for long periods of time. If both our food and water needs are not met, then we will perish within days of each other .

Water: Water is another essential human need that we require in order to survive for long periods of time. If both our food and water needs are not met, then we will perish within days of each other .

Sleep: Sleep is the time our body needs to rest and recover. We spend a lot of time sleeping, which means that it is an important part of staying alive .

2. Safety Needs ( e.g. Personal security , financial security)

“Once our physiological needs are taken care of, we then want to feel safe, both physically and financially” . Our safety needs refer to our desire for personal security (e.g. protection from crime or injury) and financial security (e.g. income stability). We also need to feel accepted within society so that we can interact with one another safely on a daily basis .

Personal security: Personal security refers to a feeling of having a safe space in order to conduct business or interact with others.

Financial security: Financial security is an important safety need for humans as we rely on income and employment to survive .

3 . Love / Belonging ( e . g .. friendship, intimacy )

“When our safety needs are met , we want to belong and connect with others” . We need to feel love and affection from our friends or family. Without this social support, we feel very isolated which often leads to depression. Strong friendships also protect us from developing mental health problems . Love and belonging is also important at work. In the workplace , employees who feel a strong connection to their colleagues often perform better, are more motivated and stay in their job for longer .

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Love: Love is an essential human need that we require in order to survive and flourish. We all feel a strong emotional connection with our friends and family, otherwise we would not be motivated to spend time with them every day.

Friendship: Strong friendships are important for our mental health. Without them, we often feel very isolated which can lead to feelings of depression.

4. Esteem (e.g. achievement, reputation, status)

“After our social needs have been met , we can then explore our desire to achieve” . Our esteem needs refer to our need for self-esteem, confidence and respect from others. This is the most ‘selfish’ of all Maslow’s needs as it focuses on personal goals . If people are not met with adequate love and affection, they often look within themselves to find their esteem.

This may lead to feelings of arrogance and conceitedness.

Achievement: Achievement is important for our psychological well-being. We are motivated by goals and targets, which give us a sense of purpose.

Reputation: Our reputation ties in closely with achievement as it refers to how others perceive us . We all want to be known as someone who has achieved certain goals or milestones. This gives other people a perception of us , which we hope they will share with others .

Status: We all want to be known as someone who has achieved certain goals or milestones. This gives other people a perception of us , which we hope they will share with others .

5 . Self-actualization (e.g. reaching one’s full potential)

“After meeting our esteem needs , we are able to explore the need for personal growth” . This refers to feeling a sense of purpose, accomplishment or meaning in life . It is often associated with personal growth, learning and understanding . It is the true pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy as it requires a person to search for their full potential and reach it. People who feel that they have reached their full potential often report higher levels of happiness and well-being . Self-actualized people are often the ones who make great advances in society .

Personal Growth: Personal growth is important because it gives a sense of purpose and meaning . It also allows us to explore our true potential.

Self-Actualization: Self actualization is at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy as it requires a person to search for their full potential and reach it . This makes them happier people with higher levels of well-being .

6 . Knowledge (e.g. understanding, education)

“Once we meet our esteem needs, we are then free to pursue knowledge” . Our knowledge needs refer to our desire for learning and understanding. Knowledge is empowering as it gives us a sense of control. This explains why people seek to obtain higher levels of education . As humans, we need to explore the world around us through activities such as reading books or watching documentaries .

Understanding: In order to feel a sense of control, we have a desire for learning and understanding . This allows us to explore the world around us.

Education: People spend years in education so that they can understand more about the world . We often become happy once we achieve a certain level of education as it gives people a sense of power and control.

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7. Creativity (e.g. exploration, innovation, expression)

“After we meet our knowledge needs , we then pursue creativity and discovery” . Our creativity needs refer to our desire for exploration, imagination and creation. We need to feel like we are free to be artistic and inventive without judgement from others . People who report higher levels of creativity are often more intelligent. This

Exploration: We all have a desire for exploration as it allows us to be creative and imaginative.

Imagination: People often report higher levels of well-being when they are able to exercise their imagination and creativity . This is because we need this freedom within our daily life.

Creation: Our creativity needs refer to our desire for exploration, imagination and creation .

8. Spirituality (e.g . religion, philosophy )

“After meeting our creativity needs , we seek to understand ourselves on a more spiritual level” . Our spiritual needs refer to our search for meaning through religious practices or philosophical enquiry . This is the least explored of the human needs because many religions claim that you must answer this question of ‘meaning . ‘ The most famous research on spirituality was done by American psychologist, Abraham Maslow .

Religion: For many people, religion provides a source of spirituality . This allows them to find meaning within their lives.

Philosophy: Some schools of thought believe that we can answer the question “what is the meaning of life” through philosophical enquiry . This explains why philosophy has been studied for thousands of years.

9. Contribution to the community

“After meeting our need for spirituality, we have the desire to give back” . Our need for contribution refers to our desire to help those around us. This is closely related to our needs of belonging and love. It also explains why many people volunteer for charity work .

Giving Back: Sometimes people report higher levels of happiness when they are able to give back to their community. This is because we have a need for contribution .

10. Excitement (e.g. wild adventures, thrills)

“After meeting our need for contribution, we then turn our attention to exciting activities” . Our needs for excitement refer to activities that provide us with thrills and spills such as riding roller coasters or skydiving . This result comes from the study of self-actualized people . It suggests that even after they have met all of their basic needs, humans still look for excitement in life. Thrill-seeking behaviour may be an innate characteristic of humans .

Thrilling activities: Thrill-seeking is a common behaviour in humans. People often report higher levels of happiness when they are able to engage in their favourite thrill-seeking activities . This is because we have a need for excitement.

Conclusion: All of our basic needs are important. The more that we are able to meet these needs, the higher levels of happiness we will experience . This is why it is important for us to understand what our human needs are and how they affect the decisions that we make.

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