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Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - Physiological Needs

Updated: Jan 9, 2023

The first step on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is known as Physiological Needs. This refers to a human's basic needs for food, shelter, rest, etc... If you don't know where you are sleeping that night, or if you don't know when your next meal will be, it is difficult to be able to focus on anything else. This is why newborns don't develop language or an ability to walk when they are first born because their first skill needs to be to be able to regulate their own body temperature, to be able to eat, and to be able to breathe. Our body's ability to survive is the first need that we have to meet in order to be able to progress on the hierarchy of needs. The concept of physiological needs can be broken down into four key areas: health, strength, hunger, and sex.


Health is probably the most important of the categories of physiological needs. If we are not healthy, we cannot live life to the fullest. Be it Diabetes, heart disease, or being overweight, if our body is not functioning at its maximum potential, we cannot function at our maximum potential. If you are worried about being able to get up the stairs to your office without getting out of breathe or having a heart attack, then you won't have enough energy left to think about much of anything else. There's a few ways that you can reach your maximum health potential. They are:

  1. Knowledge - Knowledge is always the first step to getting better. Having a good idea about how your body is doing will inform you on how to improve it. It is important to have annual check ups, know your vitals, etc... so that you can make informed decisions about your own personal health and how to improve it.

  2. Nutrition - What we eat fuels our body. As we lead faster and more chaotic lives, we lose sight of the importance of nutrition. Between work meetings, appointments, and the responsibilities that you face on a daily basis, it becomes easy to forget about healthy nutrition and quickly go through the McDonald's drive through to get a burger that you can eat within minutes. However, burgers and other unhealthy foods (sugars, sodas, fast food, etc...) will not give our body the fuel that it actually requires to function at it's maximum potential. Meal planning, having healthy snacks available ahead of time, following healthy nutritionists on social media, watching healthy cooking shows, going to farmers markets, or simply avoiding soda are all great ways to start to focus on improving your nutrition.

  3. Prevention - Of course, preventing illness before it even hits your body is always the best approach. In order to be healthy, knowing how to prevent illness is just as important as knowing how to fight it once it hits. Simple ways to prevent illness include good hygiene, regular check ups, getting properly vaccinated / immunized during cold season, regular exercise, using supplements and vitamins correctly, and avoiding areas that breed sickness.

Having a healthy body that is able to function at it's maximum potential is the first step in actualizing your Physiological Needs.


Having strength is the second step in actualizing Psychological Needs. Your body needs to be able to not only move in a healthy fashion but also be strong enough to carry the things that you need for your day-to-day life. Simply look at the person who cannot carry their briefcase to work or the mother who just delivered a child and cannot carry her baby yet to understand how important strength truly is to being an actualized human being. There are a few steps that you can take to build on your strength:

  1. Cardiovascular Health - In order to be strong, your heart needs to work well. If you cannot carry your suitcase up the stairs without worrying about your heart's health or if you're unable to run away from danger because of poor cardiovascular health then you won't be able to have much of an impact on this world. Cardiovascular health has become so important that it's now a standard question in most physical checkups. How many times do you remember the nurse asking you "so, how often do you exercise each week? For how long? What kind of exercise?" and felt the need to inflate your numbers a little bit just to appear healthy? The good news is that you don't need to be a gym rat or become an exercise fanatic to achieve good cardiovascular health. Simply going on long walks, hikes, swimming, or doing yoga are enough to help improve your cardiovascular health. The key is to do them regularly enough to have an impact on your overall health.

  2. Power - Power refers to our body's ability to be strong, to lift things, to protect itself. In today's society, this need isn't as common anymore as it once was since we have so many conveniences that make the need for power irrelevant often times. However, you never know when tragedy might hit, when that earthquake or natural disaster hits, and you are all of a sudden required to rely on your body's power for survival. It might sound like overkill, but knowing that your body is strong enough to be able to survive a disaster will give you the peace of mind that you need to be able to focus on other things.


This is the third part of Physiological Needs and very straightforward. Being able to satiate our hunger and thirst is one of the most primal needs of human beings. We have all been in that situation where we feel so hungry or thirsty that we have difficulty focusing on anything else. Be it during an office meeting, or driving to pick up your kids, when you are hungry or thirsty that need takes over your brain and your motivation. One of the easiest ways of being prepared for this need is to drink sufficient water throughout the day and to always have healthy snacks available.


The final Physiological Need is sex. Sex is a physiological need that is what has kept our species alive and thriving for hundreds of years. It is a primal biological need that we have in order to reproduce and procreate. Without sex, we wouldn't have humans. There are many things that can increase or lower someone's sex drive (e.g. stress, hormones, etc...) but ultimately sex is an evolutionary urge that has allowed us to populate earth. We are one of the few lucky species where sex can actually be enjoyable and over the centuries we have romanticized sex and it has become a part of the way that we have lasting romantic relationships. The interesting thing is that sex is one of the few physiological needs that we have that we can avoid and not die from. Avoid drinking, avoid shelter, avoid eating, and you will die. But avoid sex, and you won't die. You might not be as fulfilled or live your life to it's fullest potential, but you will live. The thing with today's society, is that avoiding our sexual urges can get us into a lot of trouble. Just look at the man who is searching for sexual release and ends up having multiple affairs, or buys expensive things to impress his partner, or engages in risky behaviors to try to impress a potential mate. The important thing to recognize is that having a sexual urge is natural and part of our biological make up. The self-actualized person understands this and is able to take a step back from his/her life in order to identify where in life there is space for sex and where there isn't.

Conclusion: In conclusion, there are four major parts to Maslow's Physiological Needs. They are health, strength, hunger, and sex. A self-actualized person is able to meet all four of these needs regularly which allows him/her to function at a higher level. In the upcoming weeks we will continue to focus on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs as we continue to ascend his pyramid of needs. If you are interested in learning more about this theory, then please feel free to purchase the book "Meet Maslow: How Understanding the Priorities of Those Around us can Lead to Harmony and Improvement" by Landon T. Smith. We have no affiliation with this book and simply think it's a great resource. It is the resource we have used in creating this blog.

Where-ever you find yourself on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, we are here to help. We continue to accept new clients from New York, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, California, and outside of the USA (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Mexico).

Written by Linda Meier Abdelsayed, LMFT

Originally published 10/31/2018

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