Sep 17 2011

Happiness and Human Needs

Published by at 11:33 am under Love/Joy/Happiness


Happiness and Human Needs

In my post A Drop of Joy, I briefly explained the difference between Happiness and Joy as described by Ayman Sawaf: We experience Happiness when our needs are met and Joy when our preferences are met.

Perhaps the best route to happiness lies in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. At the base of the triangle representing those needs are physiological needs which are required for our very survival. Without them we would not be here.

Next in the triangle is safety and security. We need our health and a roof over our head. When these needs are met we experience happiness.

Happiness also results when we are given a blanket to keep us warm – another of our needs. But as I read yesterday in The Beacons of Light September message How Small is Your World?, where we often go wrong is thinking that if we are happy with one blanket, then we will be happier with five!

Isn’t it true? Don’t we believe that if we’re happy with a particular item then a bigger, better item will make us happier? Isn’t that why we build bigger and more expensive homes? And buy bigger and more expensive cars? Isn’t that one of the greatest problems in the world today?

We believe that outshining our neighbours with bigger and better will bring us more happiness. It’s called Keeping up with the Jones’s.

And that’s where we can start getting into trouble and our ability to become self-actualized (at the peak of Maslow’s triangle) is jeopardized. How can we experience happiness through Love and Belonging: friendship, family and sexual intimacy, when we work 18 hour days to pay the mortgage on that bigger, better house?

How can we experience happiness through Esteem and Self-Actualization if we don’t have Love and Belonging?

One source of happiness is dependant on the previous need being fulfilled. So our striving to “improve” our life results in the rat-race many people endure day after day after day.

There are wealthy people in this world who are happy… and joyful. But their happiness has nothing to do with their wealth. As you may have heard somewhere, money doesn’t bring happiness. In fact, it’s been my experience that money can create many other challenges.

I’ve met wealthy people who were looking for love, but worried that everyone they met was after their money. I’ve met wealthy people worried about their investments. They certainly didn’t experience happiness. Their lives were miserable.

Yes, money can provide relief from struggle on many levels, but once they’ve fulfilled the first level of Maslow’s hierarchy, wealthy people have the same challenges as anyone else and they learn that money doesn’t guarantee happiness. It can sometimes provide joy in the form of meeting their preferences, but if their other needs aren’t met, it cannot bring true happiness.

How often have you seen interviews with the “victims” of tragedies such as auto accidents, fires, hurricanes, etc.? Are they distraught because they’ve lost a house or a car? No, they’re grateful that nobody was killed. Their family is safe. They survived!

In the face of tragedies, they are happy that they met the first level of happiness on Maslow’s hierarchy: their physiological needs.

One response so far

One Response to “Happiness and Human Needs”

  1. Polly Lenmanon 04 Oct 2011 at 11:49 am

    First time here. Awesome blog and great post. Well done.

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