All about needs: A series of articles to help you identify your most important needs and how to communicate them effectively

Welcome to the second part of my article series. When it comes to our physical needs, I am going to differentiate between our body’s physical- and health needs, our need for physical touch and also the role that emotions can play when it comes to the body. When we look at needs, we can distinguish between fore- and background needs. Your foreground need is your immediate need, for example hunger. When you’re foreground need is not met, your other needs will stay at the background, creating problems. Physical needs are often foreground needs and thus it’s very important to be aware them.

Your physical body- and health needs are very important. You must listen to your body and become aware of what it is that your body needs. When we are unhealthy, tired, stressed or sick we are not happy campers. We can also not think clearly and communication can become problematic. There are three very important physical needs that I would like to talk about. The first is your body’s need for food – all people, animals and even plants need food. In today’s busy life we often neglect a healthy eating pattern, thus putting strain on our bodies. We need to eat at least three times per day (or six smaller meals per day). You need to have a balanced diet consisting of all the food groups. Neglecting you’re eating habits is one of the first things that we put to the background, yet it’s one of our most primal needs.

The second is your body’s need for sleep. We need to sleep between six and twelve hours per night. We differ in the amount of sleep that we need. I know that I need to sleep 8 hours per night otherwise I’m irritable. While you sleep your body rests and your brain produces “serotonin”- I call it your “happy” hormone. We need serotonin in order to regulate our mood levels. If you don’t sleep well your brain does not produce enough serotonin causing your mood to drop – this can actually lead to you struggling to sleep – lowering your serotonin levels even further. Being tired is a powerful foreground need which can lead to high levels of irritability and low energy levels. This can directly influence your ability to communicate healthy and effectively with the people around you.

The third need is your body’s need for vitamins and minerals – because of stressful life styles and a general lack of healthy eating habits, the body might need additional vitamins and minerals. Taking a multi-vitamin can help your body by putting in all the extra vitamins and minerals that it needs. Speak to your general health advisor for more information regarding that. Physical problems can cause allot of issues in a relationship. When you are not feeling well, you will be more irritable, have less energy and have a low tolerance for your partner. Your intimate (sexual) relationship with your partner can also be affected by this. Be aware of your body and give it what it needs.

The second aspect of physical needs is your need for physical touch and intimacy. Physical touch is one of the most powerful ways of showing and receiving love. All people want a certain degree of physical touch and we all need it. Because we are all different, the amount of physical touch that you will need will differ. Physical touch acts include: hugging, holding hands, kissing, cuddling, etc. It also includes intimate (sexual) touch. As a counsellor I encounter a number of issues with couples that lack sexual intimacy. It can become a very sensitive topic and marriages end because of this. Being honest and open about your sexual needs is advisable – not sharing these needs with your partner is dangerous and thoughts like “something must be wrong” “I wonder if she is having an affair” “he’s not attracted to me anymore” can lead to a variety of communication problems. Your physical health and stress can have a direct influence on your need for intimate touch (sex) – please make contact with this part of yourself and if you feel uncomfortable or unsure please talk to someone about your thoughts and feelings.

The third aspect of physical needs that will be discussed, it the impact that your negative emotions can have on your body. I don’t think we always realize that our emotions are physical – every time you feel an emotion your body release chemicals (hormones mostly). Think about this for a moment: when you are stressed, where do you physically feel it? Some people feel it in their stomach, others feel tension in their backs and necks, and you might even feel it in your chest. Did you know that your brain also does not know the difference between an emotional and physical threat? Because we are so wonderfully made, our bodies have natural defence mechanisms against “threats” – internally we were born to survive. The problem with this is that when we feel emotional pain or distress, the body releases hormones to help us survive. If these hormones stay in the body for too long it can lead to other health problems. This is why exercising is so good for you – the only way of getting these hormones out of your body is by exercising. It is especially valuable for men to have a physical out let (like running, boxing) for their emotions. Negative emotions can also cause other health problems like high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, digestive problems, heart problems and even strokes.

I have now given you some information regarding your general physical needs. So what do you do now? Now I would like you to go to a quiet place – sit down and become aware of your body. Do you sleep well? Do you have healthy eating patterns? Do you take daily vitamins and minerals? Do you have any illnesses? What are your physical touch needs? Are they being met? If not, why? Are you sexually satisfied? What negative emotions do you feel on a regular basis? How do you think it affects your body? Are you currently under allot of stress? Where in your body do you carry your feelings? Do you get enough exercise? These are all questions that can help you get into contact with your physical needs. Now, if you know what your body needs, you can communicate those needs so much easier to your partner.

Good luck on your way to bodily awareness – enjoy the journey.

Also read the other articles in the series: 
Emotional needs – the start to a healthier and happier you
Physical needs – your body, physical touch and your emotions
Social Needs – Our need for interaction and contact with friends and family (Part one)
Social Needs – Our need for interaction and contact with friends and family (Part two)