What do humans need to survive? It’s a worthy question to ask because the answers can speak to some important problems that many people face. It is common, for example, to experience seasons in life that are dominated by a sense of stagnation, of deprivation, or of floundering about what should come next. Sometimes life can seem overwhelmed by feelings of meaningless, hopeless and sadness because the voice of depression questions, “Why bother”? It is common to not know the way forward or where to begin to makes things better. Perhaps the first step can be guided by answers to the basic question, what do I need to live this life?

At the most fundamental level, all people have physiological needs to…

  • breath air
  • eat food
  • drink water
  • sleep
  • have a healthy body
  • have shelter
  • have safety

Every human being has social needs to…

  • have companionship
  • have a predictable, living wage
  • feel valuable
  • have a sense of belonging among others
  • have safety

Finally, some emotional needs that humans have to…

  • feel feelings
  • effectively soothe painful or difficult feelings in healthy ways
  • to act on or respond to feelings in healthy ways

Obviously, this is not a complete, nor a universal list of human needs. And it’s not the whole answer on how to get out of a funk, how to figure out what you want to be when you grow up, or how to beat depression. But it’s not a bad start. If it currently feels impossible to experience improvement in your life, or to gain some momentum, then start at the very beginning. Start with meeting your need to breathe. Just breathe… and then eat… and then drink some water. There, you’ve already started meeting your needs. When you’re ready, take on the rest of the items in the physiological needs category.

And then when you’re ready after that, keep working your way down the list. Here are some ideas of how you could proceed. This is not a prescription, but simply a few suggestions of things to do or to consider as you go.

 Call or meet a friend and get a dose of companionship.

 Nurture your relationships so you can foster a sense of belonging among others.

 Look at your life and decide if you feel safe where you’re living. If you don’t, brainstorm about how you can change this reality for yourself. Make it a priority – shelter and safety are extremely important human needs.

 Notice whether you allow yourself to risk feeling your feelings. If you don’t, simply start by checking in with yourself regularly everyday and ask, “What am I feeling at this precise moment?” Start with the basic labels: mad, sad, glad, surprised, scared… Later, consider printing out a list of feeling words from the Internet to acquaint yourself with the many nuances of feelings.

 If you do feel your feelings regularly, notice whether you’re pleased or not with how you behave in relation to your feelings. When you’re sad or angry or happy, how do you act? Do you intentionally or unintentionally hurt yourself or others? If so, consider taking on the rewarding work of trying out new ways of responding to feelings. Just try something new and see how it goes.

If you’re feeling completely stuck in your life right now, start at the beginning. Just meet your most basic needs and then move your way down the list. I bet you won’t feel so stuck anymore.