All habits and addictions begin out of a genuine desire to satisfy our needs. Whether we use coffee or nicotine to find a sense of stability and security during certain parts of our day, or drugs and alcohol to create a sense of significance in an otherwise confusing or boring world. Tony Robbins, world-renowned coach, speaker and facilitator talks about 6 basic human needs(1): certainty, uncertainty, significance, connection/love, growth, and contribution. Robbins elaborates on one aspect of addiction in that any behavior that satisfies at least three human needs is something that is very easy to become addicted to. Perhaps this is why alcohol, smoking, and eating are such difficult vices to overcome. They give us a sense of certainty, connection, and depending on the person, significance, and perhaps even uncertainty as well. Whenever making an attempt to change a habit or addictive behavior it is important to realize that these needs must still be met, making it crucial to replace the negative behavior with something which fulfills the same needs in a positive way. Here are some strategies which may help.

Exercise and Movement
Exercise and physical movement is a great way to satisfy the need for certainty in our lives, giving us a structure, and a focus for allotted amount of time. It also fulfills the need significance, as exercise increases self-awareness, self-esteem, and a general feeling of well-being. Physically exerting oneself during the day also helps increase blood perfusion to the brain, enhancing cognitive function, as well as helping regulate hormones, lose weight and get more restful sleep.

Improve and Stabilize Mood with Nutrition
Proper nutrition tends to create more consistent moods, with less ups and downs during the day, and emotional instability which can cause us to reach for our “self-medications.” Some foundations of good nutrition which can significantly help are: less sugar and refined carbohydrates, more protein (especially in the morning), more fiber, more healthy fats, and less caffeine.

Becoming more aware of the thoughts and feelings which arise inside is a great way learn what various triggers of addictive behavior are. By isolating what is causing us discomfort, we are better able to address those issues by replacing our old habits with new ones that satisfy the same need of moving past the discomfort.

We all need connection, it’s one of the basic human needs, and one which is often sought through unhealthy behavior. Developing a healthy sense of connection with others is incredibly therapeutic when transitioning away from addictive habits. This doesn’t have to be in the form of a 12-step group, though they are very beneficial for many people. Your yoga class, church group, family and friends, work community, or neighborhood organizations all have the potential of satisfying this need for connection.


More on the 6 basic human needs

Node Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine amongst the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend campout where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision. 

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