What is it that we need in order to be healthy happy humans?
It seems that in order to live well we require nourishment through multiple channels, a few of which are sunshine, fresh air, clean water, nutrient dense food, physical movement, learning, sleep, relationships and meaningful work.
When we examine our needs in this broader sense and objectively look for where we’re imbalanced, it allows us to discover why we perform the patterns of behaviour that we do and this enables us to witness the ways in which we go about satisfying the needs of our bodies, minds, and souls.
I’ve recently become more aware that when I’ve been spending more time alone I tend to have increased impulses or cravings for certain experiences that nourish my social needs.
For instance, I’ll often think of calling a friend on the phone or going to a social gathering which is usually the most direct and straightforward approach.
Sometimes though I feel like eating a piece of dark chocolate or a baked good of some sort. Something sweet and comforting. And I’ll be the first to admit that one piece of dark chocolate often turns into eating the entire bar while dipping it in a jar of Rainforest Nut Butter “Mmmmmmm” and I am not ashamed to admit it.
What this tells me is that there are many ways that we can go about satisfying our needs as humans and that within these options there exists a spectrum of how well each choice supports our overall health and happiness in a sustainable and holistic fashion.
Say we’re feeling lonely, we could call up a friend for a meal, we could call up an escort or phone sex operator, we could eat sweets until we’re stuffed, we could immerse ourselves in TV, or we could toughen up and tell ourselves that we don’t need others, all of which are ways of attempting to satisfy or suppress the same base need.
The need to connect, to touch, to embrace and feel supported, held, and heard.
Now I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that it’s going to serve you better in the long run to choose a meal with a friend rather than paying for sex or binge on sweets in order to get your fix, however it is clear from the widespread levels of addiction to things like sex, food, entertainment and drugs that many of us are struggling to find healthy ways of meeting our needs.
Until we become aware that we are in fact executing this kind of unconscious program it is virtually impossible to re-examine it and start to choose alternatives.
For me this means that if I find myself feeling stressed or anxious and I am aware enough to observe what’s happening and not attach into it, then I’ll create the space in which I am able to weigh my options and choose more consciously.
Will I go to the kitchen and scarf down a bunch of food?
Will I call that person who’s been on my mind?
Will I go for a walk around my building?
Will I do a set of calisthenics and deep breathing?
So many choices.
So many different ways to go about fulfilling my desires.
And let’s be clear, this is not to say that I always choose the “healthiest” option. I have on multiple occasions consciously chosen food as my fix which creates quite an interesting experience where you are aware that you’re using food to fill a need and you’re OK with that. It can actually be quite a liberating feeling in our perfectionist culture to say screw it! I’m going to eat the crap out of this (fill in your favorite comfort food) and I’m going to enjoy every second of it.
And so I’d like to invite you to reflect on the ways in which you go about meeting your needs and satisfying your desires.
Are they sustainable?
Are they life-enriching?
Do they compromise your health and wellness?
Are they associated with feelings of guild and shame?
Do they help you to feel light and fulfilled or heavy and empty?
The best advice I’ve ever gotten on the matter is to sit and be with the arising sensation whether it be a craving for certain food or an impulse to engage in a certain activity the key is not to allow the strong emotional charge to pull you unconsciously in a certain direction.
In this way we create space, we un-hinge from the impulsive response, and we allow ourselves to experience what is happening before deciding how to move forward.
And remember, above all to be compassionate towards yourself.
No one is perfect, we all struggle, we all have room for improvement, the key is being present with where we’re at, holding a vision of where we’re heading, and then taking small steps each day to get there.
In this way we slowly become the masters of our own lives and are able to distinguish between wise and unwise action as we journey toward becoming more whole, more happy and more fulfilled.
Safe travels on the journey my friends.