Logo Kanton Bern / Canton de BerneUniversities of Bern Counselling Centre

Basic needs

What makes us humans happy? What should we be aware of so that we feel good and can develop in a positive direction? We will give you a few suggestions on this.

According to Klaus Grawe, a former psychology professor at the University of Bern, we «thrive» particularly well under very specific conditions. Namely, when we succeed in satisfying the following basic needs:

  • the need to increase/protect our self-esteem
  • the need for connection
  • the need for pleasure or avoidance of lack of pleasure
  • the need for orientation, control and coherence

According to Paul Dolan, a British psychology professor at the London School of Economics, meaningfulness also plays a prominent role. In concrete terms, this means that we are most likely to be happy when we:

  • can build close and positive social ties
  • feel cared for
  • experience ourselves as valuable
  • experience a lot of joy and little pain
  • have control over our lives
  • experience a sense of purpose

On the other hand, frustration of these basic needs is fertile ground for psychological disorders. According to these theories, everything we do is geared towards satisfying these basic needs.

While some authors speak of happiness, others use the term «subjective well-being». We mostly use the term «well-being» here, as it has both a mental and a physical aspect and corresponds well to the World Health Organisation's (WHO) definition of health.

The WHO defines health as follows: «Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity» (WHO, 1946). Now and then we speak of happiness, as this term is more accurate on certain points.

Our advisor Philipp Schmutz has also already grappled with the question of what a happy life is. Watch the video here:

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