9 Ways to Fulfill Your Basic Needs

If you have ever taken a psychology class you have probably learned at least something about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In case you can’t remember or need a little refresher, here is what it’s all about: you need to fulfill your basic needs before you can fulfill your more complex needs. He created a pyramid with the most basic needs being at the bottom and the more complex needs at the top. Here is what they are (going from bottom to top)

  • Physiological
  • Safety
  • Love or Belonging
  • Esteem
  • Self-Actualization

While I am sure that many of us would like to skip to the top and go straight to self-actualization, that is not how it works. We have to make an effort to meet the needs at the bottom of the pyramid before we can work our way up.

Many people who struggle with addiction have a very difficult time meeting these basic needs. Often addiction takes over all of the other things we would usually do to take care of ourselves. Behaviors that seems so fundamental like eating and sleeping fall away. For people in early recovery it is vital to re-establish these healthy self-care behaviors. Here are some ways you can start to meet those basic needs so that you can start to move up that pyramid.

Eat Well

Eating well can mean different things to different people. There is no blanket diet that is good for all people. However, there are some basics that have been researched. The NIH (https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/eat/calories.htm) recommends emphasizing vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. It can also be beneficial to eat lean meats and proteins. You should try to limit sugar intake and control portion sizes in general. Following these simple recommendations can help you get your diet back on track. Dietary counseling has become common at many holistic treatment centers, as it’s a crucial piece to investigate if we are going to recover.

Drink Water

Contrary to what many bottled water companies would like you to believe, you don’t need to drink a ridiculous amount of water in order to stay hydrated. In fact, research has shown that just 2 cups of water per day can be enough for healthy adults. It is of course important to meet this minimum so that you aren’t dehydrated. Drinking water can help reduce stress, help us focus, and of course keeps our physical bodies running smoothly.

Caring for Basic Needs

Get Your Sleep

Sleep needs tend to change for people over the course of the lifetime. For anyone who is chronically sleep deprived you probably know first-hand the negative effects it can have on the body. People who are sleep deprived tend to have worse concentration and memory. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to obesity and cardiovascular disease. Just like the water tip above, you do not need some crazy amount of sleep in order to meet your needs. But, if you are feeling tired you probably could use some more. Listen to your body and investigate for yourself what the right amount of sleep is for you.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise has been linked to a whole host of positive outcomes. According to the CDC it will boost mood and has positive mental health benefits as well as being beneficial for your physical body. Getting even a little exercise regularly will be hugely beneficial. Exercise has proven effective in increasing mood, helping treat depression, and helping people focus more on daily tasks.

Go to the Doctor

When we are kids most of us go to the doctor pretty regularly because our parents take us. For many young adults they don’t get to the doctor as often as they probably should. People struggling with addiction sometimes avoid seeing doctors for fear that their addiction might be found out. For people in early recovery it is crucial to get back into the habit of seeking medical help regularly and as needed. Duke Health recommends that healthy people under 30 get a physical every 2 or so years. They also recommend that women who are sexually active get see a gynecologist regularly. Taking care of your physical health in this way can really help your mental health.

Practice Meditation

This might seem like one of those things that isn’t a “basic need”. However, meditation can really help you meet some of your most basic needs for mental health. Meditation has been shown to reduce cortisol levels thereby reducing stress levels (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23724462). Being that stress is one of the biggest triggers for most mental health issues this can be truly foundational to well-being. If you are looking to start a regular meditation practice there are a number of easy apps and breathing techniques that can be done regularly with very little time commitment.

Speak up for Yourself

This tip is one that moves from Maslow’s bottom tier of physiological needs up to safety. It can be really difficult for people to ask for their needs to be met. It can also be very difficult for people who are newly sober or trying to get sober to ask for help when it is needed. Speaking up for yourself even when it is hard can be a great way to increase your sense of safety. Doing so will allow you to lean on others for support and safety and have you needs met by the people close to you.

Establish Good Boundaries

This tip also addresses your basic need for safety. Part of addiction is very blurry boundaries. This might mean people who are enabling or codependent, it can also mean having people around who are too demanding. One of the best ways to start keeping yourself safe in recovery is to establish good boundaries with the people around you. Sometimes this means cutting off friends who just enable using or saying “no” to people who demand too much.

Remember to Have Fun

It is hard to meet your basic needs if there isn’t some time for breaks and fun. It is important in early recovery to start to care for yourself in all of these ways but also to be gentle with yourself and enjoy the process. The best way to motivate yourself to meet your basic needs is to enjoy the time you spend doing it. Maybe you pick one of these like exercise or nutrition that becomes a hobby for you. Whatever you do, remember that it is hard to meet complex needs like happiness and friendship when you aren’t being taken care of in basic ways.

There are many different types of therapy out there and it is important to know what exactly they all are. Many inpatient treatment centers are now offering more therapy options for people to chose from. Educating yourself about therapeutic techniques can be helpful so that you understand exactly what kind of treatment you or your loved one is receiving. It is important to note that there are many more types of therapy than listed here. We have listed some here that are particularly common in drug treatment.

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy often called CBT is a type of therapy that helps people look at and change their thoughts and behaviors. In this type of therapy people are often asked to examine the false beliefs that they have. This is done by taking a belief you might have and then examining the evidence that you have for why you might believe that about yourself. For example, if you have the belief that you can never live a sober life a CBT therapist might ask you to look at the days you have gone without drinking. You do this until you see that the belief is false. Once you see that you are able to live a sober life you can start to change your behavior to be more in line with your new belief about yourself.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness CBT has been shown to be an effective form of therapy for treating anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Being that these disorders are often diagnosed along side addiction, CBT can be an important part of treating addiction. Anxiety and depression might sometimes even be the underlying cause of addiction. It is crucial to treat the underlying issues that might be causing or contributing to addiction. If these root causes aren’t addressed people might relapse or fall into other addictions.

2. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Different Types of TherapyDialectical Behavioral Therapy or DBT is a type of therapy that helps people work on acceptance and change. DBT got its name because of the dialectical nature of these two things. They seem to be opposites. How can you accept something and change it at the same time? The therapist helps you do this by helping you tolerate and sit with uncomfortable feelings or situations that cannot be changed. Simultaneously the therapist will help you have the confidence to change the thoughts, feelings, or situations, that can be changed.

According to the National Institute of Health DBT has been found to be effective treating people who have addiction, suicidality, or borderline personality disorder. The reason it is so helpful for people coping with these things is because it is important to feel both validated and hopeful. It is important to feel like your painful thoughts and emotions are true but that there is also hope that some things can change.

3. Solution Focused Therapy

Solution Focused Therapy is also sometimes called Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT). This is because typically this approach to therapy only requires three to five sessions. SFBT does not look at past causes or current problems. rather, clients are asked to look at the tools they already have and examine their future hopes and desires. One way this is done is by having people look at exceptions to problems. Therapists might ask if there is anything in your life that is working right now. That way you can build on the tools you already have established.

According to a study published in the journal of Advances in Psychiatric Treatment SFBT has been effective regardless of what someone is dealing with. Specifically, these researchers suggest that it is helpful in treating drug abuse, trauma, and relationship problems. SFBT can be helpful when treating addiction because it allows people to look at the solutions they already have within themselves. Given the short length of time people usually spend in inpatient treatment, it can be great to have a type of therapy that works quickly.

4. Motivational Interviewing

Motivation Interviewing is a type of therapy that was specifically developed for people with addiction. In motivational interviewing the therapist and the client are working collaboratively with one another. The therapist encourages and motivates the client in order to help them change. In this type of therapy it is thought that there are motivational blocks that get in the way of recovery. By having a therapist who is aligned with the client and there to motivate them it helps them break through those motivational blocks.

5. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

EMDR is a type of therapy that was developed for people who are coping with post traumatic stress and anxiety. Clients are asked to think of the event or stimuli that induces anxiety. Then they follow the clinician’s finger with their eyes. According to Scientific American, this is thought to work because it allows the two hemispheres of the brain to connect and process information in a new way. During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep the eyes do a similar action. It is thought that this is one of the ways that our brain helps us process information. Mirroring these eye movements that you have in REM sleep is thought to have a similar effect.

6. Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback is a theraputic intervention that is used to help people who have many different psychological disorders. It is done by attaching monitors to the scalp and then having the client view their brainwaves on a screen in front of them. The client does a number of tasks in order to tell which brain waves the client has in response to different things. Then the person guiding the session will help reinforce using the right brain waves for the right task. This can help the brain to become more efficient and can help the client respond to situations in new ways.

7. Family Systems Therapy

Family systems therapy asks the client to take a look at how their problems fit within the larger family system. This is done by having families come in and work on interpersonal communication among other things. Family members are asked to try and understand one another and relate to one another in new ways. This perspective views the family as an emotional unit. Each person in the family is looked at in relation to the whole.

8. Equine Therapy

Equine therapy is a type of therapy where clients interact with horses in conjunction with a therapist. Increasingly popular with holistic rehab centers, it is thought that interacting with an animal in this way can improve communication, anxiety, trust, and self-esteem. The client is asked to interact with the horse in a number of activities that are meant to enhance the qualities listed above. It is important to note that equine therapy is done in conjunction with other types of therapy and it not usually used by itself.

Hopefully after reading this list you have a better idea of the types of therapy that are out there and how they might be used. The best way to figure out what works for you is to be informed about what they are and what they are usually used for. The list above features types of therapy that many inpatient treatment centers are now offering as they have been found to be helpful for people struggling with addiction or co-occurring disorders.

Honesty In Recovery

In twelve step programs and other recovery programs as well, there are sets of principles which serve as a guiding force for the addict or alcoholic newly entering recovery. Behind each step, or monumental outline services a principle or a description as to what value the action or notion holds universally. In the 12 step program, the first step, “we admitted we were powerless over our addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable,” correlates with the principle of honesty. The notion of honesty is more than simply telling the truth. When carefully considered, it can reveal itself to be a powerful sentiment and strongly loaded word. To live an honest life is more than keeping your word or not lying, it’s almost an oath for righteousness without the thoughts of being righteous.

What is Honesty?

The most common definitions of honesty are that it implies a refusal to steal; a quality of being fair; a straight forwardness of conduct; a refusal to deceive in any way. Perhaps the most insightful is the refusal to deceive in any way. Many times in early recovery, we like to utilize the skill of omission. Omission is different than a normal lie because rather than offering information or an explanation that isn’t truthful, we preserve the integrity of our secrets by leaving out parts that might shed light into an area of our conduct that we wouldn’t want to be discovered. In taking up an honest lifestyle, it becomes apparent fairly quickly that honesty and transparency are words that should be synonymous with one another, if we are going to be anything close to happy in recovery from substances.

Honest Without Words

There’s an example that is sometimes used of a car without fuel. When the car is completely without fuel, it isn’t possible for it to go anywhere without refueling. There’s a similar notion in recovery, with a loss of energy and a loss of interest in many things. Feelings of being overwhelmed or even “burnt out,” are fairly common and can make it difficult to consider whether or not inertia comes from a place of exhaustion or simply refusal. Considering the automobile, we can honestly ask ourselves if we are putting in the best effort in our recovery and the tasks that are asked of us. Sometimes, admitting that the answer is “no,” can be a great example of honesty within ourselves. As honesty becomes much like a new language, it starts with our own understanding of ourselves and our capabilities. Many times, it can be misunderstood that unwilling and dishonest go hand in hand, however a truthful admission of our own unwillingness can be one of the more complementary steps we take in our quest for honesty. Much like the definition, this can be an important “straight forwardness of conduct,” and through this growth can absolutely be attainable.


For many addicts and alcoholics, something as simple as “dressing the part,” can be a dishonest method used for surviving uncomfortable and questionable situations. When we enter into early recovery, our dishonesty may be attached to a certain role we have been playing through our active addictions and a sense of an authentic self might seem to fall short of our expectations for who we must be or appear to be to survive. It’s important to realize that this sense of self is skewed through living a lifestyle that was not only dishonest, but ultimately wasn’t beneficially for bettering ourselves or finding true happiness. In recovery, we can see where we are being dishonest through our actions and appearances. With learning not to omit anything, and being straight forward about our conduct, we begin to learn that the best way to live an honest life is to simply step out into the world as we are and embrace the truth, for all it is worth.

We will live longer and happier lives if we can cultivate a sense of honesty that allows us to take refuge in the idea that we are no longer hiding from the world. Whether it’s through admitting a relapse, admitting a mistake, or being honest about our feelings in a certain situation, we can grow as recovering addicts and alcoholics if we find the faith necessary to allow ourselves to be honest with those who are closest to us. Through our trial and error, it becomes obvious that the only person we had hurt with our dishonest was ourselves. It is through faith in a process that we allow ourselves to show those who are closest to us our real selves; having shown them our real selves, we begin to heal as the people we were truly designed to be.

Faith comes in many forms, and although many of us are skeptical, we find we can not build trust without allowing a small bit of it in the first place. Through a recovery program, a mentor, a friend, a therapist or a loved one, we can begin allowing ourselves to build trust by being honest, little by little, with those who are closest to us. Through time we will see that in our honesty, others begin to gradually trust us, and the connections that are built through sincerity are those that are built to last a lifetime.

Good nutrition education is an important factor in addiction recovery. Prolonged drug and alcohol abuse take a major toll on physical health, and getting the body’s systems back to their optimum functioning should be a major consideration in treatment. A healthy diet impacts everything from the intensity of withdrawal symptoms to mood, level of alertness and overall sense of well-being.

Self-care is a major focus in addiction treatment, and good self-care includes eating properly and staying hydrated. Nutrition education is the first step in helping people in recovery begin to eat better, which is usually the first major essential lifestyle change.

Good Nutrition from the Get-Go is Essential

Detoxification is the first step in treatment. From the very start, eating healthy food is crucial for fueling the internal repairs that are taking place, which may include recovering from malnutrition and enhancing the functioning of the body’s systems. The National Institutes of Health points out that good nutrition during the detox process can ease a range of withdrawal symptoms, including cravings, gastrointestinal discomfort and sleep problems.

A Healthy Diet Helps Prevent Relapse

Research shows that enjoying good overall health and a high sense of physical well-being makes people less likely to relapse. One reason for this is that the pleasant physical effects of eating healthy food often lead to other healthy lifestyle choices like exercising, meditating and taking steps to reduce stress. Combined, these can dramatically reduce the risk of relapse.

A Healthy Diet Can Help Reverse the Effects of Substance Abuse

Chronic alcohol and drug abuse can cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies, neurological problems, anemia and liver damage, among other health issues. Good nutrition helps to reverse much of the damage done by substance abuse.

Weight gain and weight loss may occur as a result of addiction and poor nutrition. Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is largely a matter of eating a nutritious diet and getting plenty of exercise.

The Importance of Nutrition Education in Treatment

Addressing the many various and highly individual aspects of an addiction, including physical health, is absolutely essential for successful recovery, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

To that end, Elevation takes a holistic approach to treatment that includes a wide range of traditional and alternative therapies that address body, mind and spirit. Nutrition education is an integral part of our programming, as it should be in any high-quality treatment program.

Nutrition education helps our clients make informed, healthy choices that strengthen the body’s systems, improve mental functioning, help stabilize the mood, and foster a higher sense of well-being, all of which are crucial for successful long-term recovery.

Understanding basic nutrition is essential for knowing how to optimally fuel the body for the long fight ahead, and knowing how to choose and prepare healthy food is vital for maintaining a healthy diet once treatment is complete. Nutrition education encompasses all of these aspects to help people in recovery maintain overall wellness and good health.

Holistic Wellness Meditation

Every morning, the clients of Elevation engage in mindful meditation to start out the day with calmness and mental clarity. In recent years, practicing this mindfulness has become a mainstream practice, and for good reason. According to Mayo Clinic, physicians recommend meditation to help their patients manage the symptoms of a wide range of conditions, from cancer to asthma and heart disease to insomnia.

What Exactly is Meditation?

When someone thinks of meditation, images of people sitting cross-legged on the floor chanting “ohm” may come to mind, but the truth is, it is simply the act of quieting the mind and focusing your attention on the present moment, and it can be done anywhere and in any position.

During meditation, when conscious thoughts arise, they’re simply acknowledged and then sent along like a leaf floating downstream. the practice has a number of far-reaching benefits for people in recovery.

Meditation and Stress, Anxiety and Depression

It’s understood that stress and mental illnesses like anxiety and depression are major factors for substance abuse and relapse.

Meditation is a potent stress reliever, according to Journal of Substance Abuse. The study found that practicing the holistic method reduced incidents of stress-related relapse among participants in an outpatient addiction treatment program. Meditation also helps the brain and body respond better to stress in general, further mitigating stress as a factor in relapse.

A study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that mindfulness helps ease anxiety and depression, which are also associated with substance abuse and relapse. Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, notes that mindfulness helps people recognize unhealthy thoughts and mindfully replace them with those that are healthier.

Becoming free of negative thought patterns is a major consideration in addiction treatment, because negative thoughts foster negative behaviors. Clarity of thought gained through mindfulness is associated with making better choices that positively impact life in recovery.

Meditation and Cravings

Regular meditation can have a big impact on cravings as well. Increased mindfulness leads to fewer negative automatic responses to cravings as practitioners learn to listen to their body and mind and respond to its cues and sensations with mindful awareness and deliberateness. As they learn to accept thoughts and feelings without judgment, evaluate their attitude and quiet the mind’s chatter, it becomes easier to respond to cravings and other negative experiences in healthy and productive ways.

Meditation as Part of a Holistic Approach to Treatment

A large body of research points to the range of benefits of mindfulness in recovery. A high-quality treatment program that takes a holistic approach to treatment offers the best chances for long-term recovery.

Beating an addiction isn’t easy, but a holistic program that addresses issues of body, mind and spirit through various traditional and non-traditional therapies like meditation can lead to real and meaningful change and a better chance of successful long-term recovery.