Mental Health: your “5-a-day” checklist

Most of us are now aware of the “5-a-day” rule around eating a good variety of fruit and vegetables as part of a healthy eating habit, but how many of us are aware of the equivalent rules for good mental heath? This article  describes the 5 basic human needs (Glasser, 1998) that we need to pay attention to if we are to maintain good mental health, and poses some questions to help you to improve your good mental health habits.


It would be hard to deny that members of the human race share many physical needs: for sleep, nutrition, hydration, excretion, and so on. This Survival group of needs sits alongside another group of innate needs: our Psychological needs. Our physical and psychological well-being are closely intertwined and our awareness of these needs helps is crucial to any personal well-being programme.

  • Love and Belonging We all need to feel cared for and be able to care for others. We need to feel loved, wanted and feel at ease with those around us. An example of this is the need to be accepted by those around us and the good feeling we get when others show they care for us, or we are able to help others.
  • Power / Self-Worth We are hard-wired to learn, and to appreciate feelings of competence, value and power.  We feel good when we see the fruits of our efforts, and a continual failure to succeed in turn leads to dis-empowerment.
  • Fun and Enjoyment All humans have a basic need to have fun, and seek enjoyment in what they do. Enjoyment can also be the reward of learning new things. We seek enjoyment through hobbies and leisure activities, but we are also driven by a need to enjoy our work.
  • Freedom This need can be viewed in 2 ways: freedom from pain, embarrassment, bullying, control by others; and freedom to make one’s own choices in life.
  • Survival and Health We need food, warmth, shelter and sleep. We also need to feel safe and keep ourselves fit and healthy.

Your personal checklist: Love and Belonging Do I feel that I am cared for and loved by others? Do I have friends and am I spending enough time with them? Do I need to improve any relationships?  Who do I need to get along  better with? How well am I meeting my need for love and belonging? My plan: Freedom Am I stuck in choices I made in the past? Am I stuck in a role e.g. “the annoying neighbour” “pushover sister”? Am I caught between conflicting demands of family/relatives/friends? How else am I meeting my need to feel free and have choice over my life? My plan: Fun and Enjoyment Am I having enough fun? Am I enjoying your job, role in the family? How else am I meeting my need for fun and enjoyment? My plan: Power/Self-Worth Am I feeling competent and successful in my day to day living? Do I feel important and valued? What success am I experiencing at home/work/in the community? How else can I meet my need for self worth? My plan:

Starting to ask yourself these questions can help you to decide where you need to put more thought and planning into your life. Once you have done this for yourself, you are in a good position to start to help your own family members to do the same. Hopefully, you will reflect on these questions and be happy that your life is fine. You can always seek new ways to meet your needs and introduce variety into your weekly routines. If you feel that you need help from a support group or counsellor, thinking about these questions will help you to be well prepared to go and get help. To be effective parents we need to take time out for ourselves and make sure that we are looking after not only our physical health, but also our relationships and psychological wellbeing.

Now Read: 9 Questions about Detention

Reference: Glasser, W. (1998) Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom.NY. Harper Collins

Image credit: code poet

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