Connection is interesting in this inside out model, because it’s something that we know is a very real human need, but it’s not something addressed directly. Connection, here, is something that you trust will come out of focusing on your own needs in a social setting. There are many ways that connection can happen in the arena of meeting your basic needs.
Fuel. You can share a meal, or one person can cook and/or serve for another.
Move. You can move together, or one person can do body work on the other, helping to evaluate, heal, or otherwise improve how the first is moving.
Engage. You can share interests and share knowledge. This is the mainstay of new connections. You can explore together, share ideas, pursue interests together, brainstorm together, be inspired by each other. See how someone else is meeting a need and try it out yourself.
Rest. You can share space, both physical and mental. Live together, rest together, invite someone into your personal space. You can listen to each other as you unwind from your day. Listen as you process emotions, be there to hold space that there is another way and the tension can unwind.
Both your body and your mind need rest. This is sleep, lounging, zoning out, meditating, rituals and habits. Rest is the time when your body can recover from the wear and tear of the day, and when your mind can integrate your emotions and experiences into rational thought and reasonable expectations. Trusting that rest will come is about having a shelter from the elements, both physical and emotional, and knowing how and when to use that shelter. A home and clothing that you’re comfortable in to shelter your physical body; and emotional and interpersonal boundaries to shelter your mind when life tries to give you more than you know how to or want to handle. It’s also important to have a method to process and release emotions, just as it’s important to have a method to keep your home organized and clean.
Body. Resting your body is about sleep, about slowing down, about taking a break when you need a break. It’s about not overdoing it, physically.
Mind. Resting your mind is about calm. Quiet. Slow. The opposite of busy. It’s about giving yourself a mental break. Turn off the computer and TV, get away from visual clutter, and just be. Maybe it’s taking a walk in nature, or meditating, or sleeping. Maybe it’s creating rituals and setting habits so you don’t have to reinvent your whole life every day. It’s also about clearing out unnecessary anxieties and worries and fears so that you can let down your guard.
Shelter and organization. In order to rest, truly rest, you need a break from the onslaught of life.
Physically, you create shelter for yourself with a home and clothing. You keep yourself at a comfortable temperature, in a comfortable environment. Not too wet, or spiky or grimy. It is important to have your own space, of whatever size, that you are in full control of and can do with as you please. It is important to dress in clothing that you are comfortable wearing, whether that means it fits as you like, it doesn’t scratch, the style expresses who you are, or you’re dressed appropriately for the occasion. If it’s uncomfortable in any way, then you aren’t fully resting.
Your home is your sanctuary, and keeping it decorated and organized the way you like allows you to fully rest when you are there. It is important to know how and when to discard items that you are finished with, and where to put them away when you’re done using them so you can find them again.
Mentally, you create shelter for yourself by setting boundaries. Knowing where you stop and other begins, knowing how and when to protect your time from too much busy and your mind from other people’s problems. It’s also knowing how to make something happen for yourself and get help when necessary.
You keep your mind clean and organized by staying in touch with your emotions, and having a way of processing them and expressing yourself. Crying, laughing, dreaming, talking and journaling are some ways of processing emotions. Expressing yourself means sharing with the outside world. That might be confiding in a friend, composing and performing music, creating visual art, or cracking jokes. With your mind clean and organized, you are able to live in the present and be in touch with yourself.
Fuel is about nourishing your body. First and foremost, you need calories in order to keep your energy up and your body running. Getting a meal on the table, having snacks (if you believe in snacks) and being confident in the process. Closely behind calories, you need nutrients as well. There may be some debate about which nutrients and what amounts and how to get them, but remember, what matters here is trust. So whatever diet you believe has the best balance, this need is about eating that diet. Finally, there’s digestion. If you aren’t digesting well, eating the absolute perfect diet for you won’t get you the nutrients you need.
Remember, that to balance your nervous system and be healthy, it’s important to trust that you’re getting the fuel you need. So if you believe in a low carb diet, it’s important to not be eating carbs. If you believe in a raw diet, it’s important to follow that diet, and if you believe in a paleo diet, it’s important to follow that one.
Trusting that you’ll get the fuel you need is also about having food available and ready to eat. Access to food, and someone who knows how to prepare it, and also being able to get it on the table without stress. Whether someone is making meals and presenting them to you with no effort on your part, or if you’re the one doing every last step, stress at any point along the way is real stress that your nervous system feels.
Calories. Calories are the energy units you get from food, that your body burns to do just about anything. You need them to exercise, think, sleep, even to digest food. Fat, protein and sugars/starches are what you can break down into energy. Energy keeps your blood sugar from crashing too low, and keeps you going. Trusting that there is energy means eating predictably, and eating enough. Most adults need about 2000 Calories a day.
Nutrients. Nutrients are things like water and vitamins and minerals. Calories give you energy, and nutrients make your body work. Some nutrients are essential and must be obtained from external sources. Others are conditionally essential, your body can manufacture to some extent given the right building blocks, or can be obtained from food. And then there are those that your body can manufacture in abundance.
There are many different schools of thought as to what and how much you need in the way of nutrients. The FDA has Reference Daily Intakes for the typical healthy individual. Different countries have their own recommendations. Different diets have their own recommendations as well.
There are also the actual nutrients themselves and what they’re doing in your body. Maybe you don’t believe humans need iron, but without it you *will* become anemic. Maybe you’ve never heard of methylation and detox pathways, but without B12 there will be consequences.
Digestion. You can be eating the best fuel on the planet, but if you can’t digest it, you’re not getting the benefits. Digestion is the act of breaking down food into it’s components so that you can absorb and use them. Digestion depends on having a good amount of stomach acid, bile, digestive enzymes, and calm. You digest best when your body is in “rest and digest” mode, and so calm, unhurried, pleasant, enjoyable meals will help you get the most out of your food.
Your body is designed to move in order to function properly. This might mean time set aside to exercise, or it might mean movement incorporated throughout your day. In order to move the way your body is designed to, it’s important to make sure that everything is in alignment and integrated with the brain. So movement is also about posture, bodywork, and reflex and sensory integration, and about healing and integrating from any injuries.
Movement is also about the actual act of moving. Exercise lowers blood sugar and burns stress hormones and increases your ability to make antioxidants. It moves your lymph around your body and it improves digestion. It actually improves your mitochondrial DNA.
Ideally, you naturally move around as you go about your day starting as a newborn, and your body develops normally. You integrate your infant reflexes into adult reflexes, you are aligned and well, you don’t get injured. You move just the right amount and don’t put undue wear and tear on your body. When things don’t play out in an ideal way, there are targeted exercises you can do to help your body back into balance. These might be specific stretches or cardio or walking or certain movements to integrate infant reflexes. Or, bodywork like a visit to a cranial osteopath or chiropractor or any number of professionals who can help.
You were born with a set of infant reflexes. As you grew, you should have integrated those reflexes into a set of adult reflexes. They integrate as you have freedom to move and explore your body in various positions – on your back, in arms, on your tummy, etc. Too much time on your back, too much time in arms, or anything else restricting normal freedom of movement can result in those reflexes being retained. Another cause of retained reflexes is cranial compressions – in a nutshell, a funny shaped head. To the extreme, this might be visible to a causal observer, but it can also be much more subtle. More on cranial compressions in another post.
As an adult, your primitive reflexes should have been integrated, and replaced with adult reflexes, that keep you from putting undue wear and tear on your joints, and make movement almost effortless. Your adult reflexes kick in when you are in alignment – kind of like “good posture.”
The final piece is to actually incorporate that movement into your day. It doesn’t have to be specific time set aside to exercise – unless you’re targeting something very specific – but rather time spent not being still. Not sitting around all day. Choosing activities and interests and ways of doing things that involve more movement rather than less. Going for a walk in the fresh air.
You need to be interested in what you’re doing. This means exploring to find things that are interesting, gathering information about your interest, trying it out, mastering it, and incorporating it into your life. Engaging your mind is about being able to move freely through the different stages of an interest, and knowing how to let go of something that does not interest you.
How many interests do you have? What are you working on right now? Do you have free (or paid!) time to follow your interests? Are you free to move among the different stages of an interest? Do you know how and when to drop an interest you’re not longer interested in?
Explore. Exploring is how we find interests in the first place. It doesn’t matter if you’re wandering though a new country, a baby exploring your body, or a kid sitting in school listening to your teachers, it’s all about new ideas, new directions. Anything that sparks your interest.
Gather. The gathering stage is when you’ve found something interesting and you want to know more. You talk to people, read a book, see more similar places. You’re collecting information and forming a framework for your interest in your mind.
Try. Once you’ve collected enough information to have an idea of what’s going on, it’s time to try it out – maybe you’re taking your first steps or speaking your first words in a new language or experimenting in a new art medium. This is when you make all sorts of mistakes, and figure out what works and what doesn’t. You might look for a teacher/mentor so that you can see how others do it.
Master. You’ve tried out your interest, you’ve made a million mistakes, and now you know what you’re doing. You can do it without thinking about it much. It’s easy. You’re past the steep part of the learning curve and it’s pretty smooth sailing from here on out. You could be the teacher/mentor for someone else.
Incorporate. Now that you have this new skill or product, bring it into your life. If you’ve mastered reading, now you can incorporate that as a new skill for gathering information or resting your body. If you’ve mastered cooking, you can use that to make yourself and others food. If you’ve mastered building bridges, you can use that to earn money to fund your other needs.
Drop. Dropping an interest is as important as pursuing one. If something no longer interests you, it’s no longer engaging, it’s no longer benefiting your nervous system. When it’s no longer interesting, you could re-frame it so it is, or else drop it and make room for what you really want to be doing.
Engaging your brain is about freely moving from one of these stages to the next, and not getting stuck. Maybe you’re stuck in a rut and can’t think of anything that sparks your interest and you don’t know how to explore and see things in a new way. Maybe you know what you want to gather more information about, but you’re embarrassed or don’t know where to look. Maybe you keep on collecting information and need to know it ALL so that you don’t make any mistakes when you try it out. Get it right on the first try. Or maybe all you see is your mistakes and you can’t stop trying and trying and trying even though someone looking on would call you a master. Maybe you’re shy or embarrassed or don’t think it’s worth it, and even though you have this amazing skill, you don’t want to work it into your life. Or don’t know how to work it into your life. Or maybe you just lost interest somewhere along the way and didn’t notice, or felt pressured to stick with it and don’t give up. Maybe you were never interested in the first place but didn’t have any choice. Or you’ve invested so much you feel like you need to keep going.
Everyone has needs, right? I’ve broken out 4 basic needs and constructed a framework around them. The idea is that by meeting your needs, you balance your nervous system and become the best version of yourself.
What are the needs?
What happens when your needs are met?
Okay, so, it’s your job to make sure that your needs will be met. Some of these needs are more obvious than others, and when you bring in the trust factor, it’s a whole different ballgame. If there’s any worry or tension at all, or if the need isn’t actually being met regularly, then the trust isn’t fully there and your nervous system can’t relax. Let’s look at the needs in a little more depth:
Engage. You need to be interested in what you’re doing. This means exploring to find things that are interesting, gathering information about your interest, trying it out, mastering it, and incorporating it into your life. Engaging your brain is about being able to move freely through the different stages of an interest, and knowing how to let go of something that does not interest you.
Move. Your body is designed to move in order to function properly. This might mean time set aside to exercise, or it might mean movement incorporated throughout your day. In order to move the way your body is designed to, it’s important to make sure that everything is in alignment and integrated with the brain. So movement is also about posture, bodywork, and reflex and sensory integration, and about healing and integrating from any injuries.
Rest. Both your body and your mind need rest. This is sleep, lounging, zoning out, meditating, rituals and habits. Rest is the time when your body can recover from the wear and tear of the day, and when your mind can integrate your emotions and experiences into rational thought and reasonable expectations. Trusting that rest will come is about having a shelter from the elements, both physical and emotional, and knowing how and when to use that shelter. A home and clothing that you’re comfortable in to shelter your physical body; and emotional and interpersonal boundaries to shelter your mind when life tries to give you more than you know how to or want to handle. It’s also important to have a method to process and release emotions, just as it’s important to have a method to keep your home organized and clean.
Fuel. Fuel is about nourishing your body. First and foremost, you need calories in order to keep your energy up and your body running. Getting a meal on the table, having snacks (if you believe in snacks) and being confident in the process. Closely behind calories, you need nutrients as well. There may be some debate about which nutrients and what amounts and how to get them, but remember, what matters here is trust. So whatever diet you believe has the best balance, this need is about eating that diet. Finally, there’s digestion. If you aren’t digesting well, eating the absolute perfect diet for you won’t get you the nutrients you need.
When your needs are met, you feel great and you want to give. Generosity, empathy, compassion, creativity and healing all turn on and you become the best, healthiest version of yourself. It’s just like on an airplane, when you put your oxygen mask on first before helping others.
What about connection? You need connection as well, but it’s a little different from the basic needs listed above. You can’t really get real, meaningful connection directly. It’s more of a byproduct of getting your basic needs met in a community setting. Sharing interests, learning from each other, preparing or eating food together, resting, moving, processing, sheltering, doing together, asking for and giving help. Connection for the sake of connection tends to fall flat, but connecting over shared needs can be powerful. I see connection as a powerful tool to make it easier and more efficient to get your basic needs met.