The 6 Human Needs…and How to Meet Them During CoVID!

The 6 Needs for Happiness and How to Meet Them during COVID!

Over the past 10 years, there’s been a lot of research on happiness – what makes human beings happy.  A couple of my favorites have been “The How of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky from Stanford and 10% Happier by Dan Harris.  What was surprising about their research is that it debunked the current understandings of what makes people happier. 

For instance – Lyubomirsky’s research found that 50% of our happiness stems from our family of origin.  We all seem to have a “particular happiness set point” that originates from a father or mother – a potential for happiness to which we are bound to return.  It’s kind of like your weight.

Surprisingly, she found that only 10% of our happiness is determined by life circumstances or situations – like whether we’re rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy, beautiful or plain, married or divorced.    

This is great news!  Since COVID is circumstantial – the good news is that COVID doesn’t get to determine our level of happiness. We have control over 40% of it. 

So what determines the other 40%?  What determines resilience during difficult times like COVID?    

The research shows that happiness is largely determined by recognizing what real needs we have and taking responsibility for meeting those needs.  It’s about developing the daily “happy habits” or behaviors that get our needs met.  Most of us prioritize one of these needs over the others, so pay attention to your TOP need. 

Conversely, a sure recipe for UNHAPPINESS is blaming circumstances or other people for NOT meeting our needs.  We feel most content when we have AGENCY and take personal responsibility for meeting our needs!     


Many researchers have recognized that we all have about 6 basic needs.  While some will add a few and subtract others, here’s what most can agree on these 6 in some form – and interestingly – several of them are paradoxical – they seem to be in conflict with one another!  Knowing them is important because when you’re feeling stuck or they’re your primary motivators.  They impact your ability to connect with others and to develop healthy relationships.  They also help you determine what drives you – and ultimately, what makes you happy.  Thanks to Tony Robbins, who helped me develop this list. 


1. Certainty/Security: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure
2. Uncertainty/Novelty: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli
3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed
4. Connection/Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something
5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding
6. Purpose/Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others


  1. One of the basic human needs we all need to have met to feel fulfilled and happy is to have some sense of certainty and predictability about our future.  That need has definitely come under fire during this pandemic!  Many of us find ourselves ruminating about the future- feeling stressed and helpless as we try to control things that are OUT of our control during this pandemic.  We wonder: When will this pandemic end? How will my kids/grandkids go to school?  What plans can I make?  Will I be stuck at home forever?


If certainty is one of your top basic human needs, you need to feel secure and safe about the future. When you receive positive recognition, it may be accompanied by a need for certainty that the recognition is authentic and will continue. In order to live a life filled with certainty, your life has to stay the same – a nearly impossible expectation to fulfill. So, you artificially control your environment by changing your expectations or by avoiding new situations or people. You find ways to positively motivate yourself and you aim to consistently deliver the same or better results to receive more recognition. This process provides you with assurance that your actions will either avoid pain or gain pleasure, which then fulfills the basic human need for certainty.


Though it’s important to understand the beauty of uncertainty, those who experience this as one of their top basic human needs can take it to an extreme. They may engage in frequent job or relationship changes for the sake of variety, or take unnecessary risks to achieve the adrenaline jolt they crave. However, if uncertainty is one of your top 6 basic human needs, you will be unafraid of taking risks and will not avoid new situations or people.


If significance is among the top two of your 6 human needs, then part of meeting that need includes receiving recognition. This may translate into a desire to be seen, heard and listened to – in short, you want to be noticed. You measure significance by what you believe makes you unique compared to everyone else around you. Recognition provides you with a sense of validation that makes you feel seen, special and/or needed. Recognition is a major driving force behind human behavior because it provides us with a measurement system to analyze and track our significance. Recognition is also an extremely important part of keeping up employee productivity.

Those who don’t devise a positive way to feel significant may end up taking drastic measures to make themselves feel good, like turning to alcohol or engaging in frequent arguments. Others surround themselves with people that they view as less skilled or accomplished to provide contrast to their own achievements. Either scenario can result in increased significance – but neither behavior is particularly healthy.


If connection/love is your top basic human need, you are constantly seeking out a close relationship with someone or something. You truly understand that love wakes you up to the gift of life. This can lead to some incredibly fulfilling relationships, but it can also cause you to sacrifice self-care in order to take care of others or maintain a partnership.


Those whose foremost need is growth are always striving to be better and learn more. They are very good at their jobs, but tend to move on quickly as soon as they believe they’ve reached their full potential. Though their constant striving for betterment ensures they will never be bored, they can err on the side of perfectionism and neglect the rest and relaxation they need to keep stress levels manageable.


The secret to living is giving, and those who experience contribution as one of their top basic human needs know this better than anyone. If you have a need to contribute, you will likely make a big difference in your community. However, you can lose sight of the fact that giving should begin at home and neglect those closest to you as you try to change the world.

All dysfunctional behaviors arise from the inability to consistently meet the 6 basic human needs mentioned above. But you don’t have to resort to these types of behaviors if you understand your own needs and psychology. By better understanding which of the basic human needs is your driving force, you can set goals for yourself and implement positive behaviors to help you achieve those goals. Understanding these needs, and which ones you are trying to meet in any given moment, can help you embrace the power of growth and create new patterns that lead to lasting fulfillment.