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Understanding Wants and Needs

Understanding the difference between wants and needs can be tricky.

Our needs are the things we must have to survive; what is essential for our health, our happiness and wellbeing. Our wants are what we desire but aren’t essential to our survival. Think of wants as the options we have; the choices we make to fulfill our needs. For example, when I’m feeling hungry, I might want to make a smoothie, have a pizza delivered, or go out to a restaurant. Each choice will fulfill my need to eat, and it is my choice how nutritious or tasty I want the meal to be. Having many choices to fulfill our needs is very empowering. We may not necessarily have all our wants fulfilled, but there are many possible choices to have our needs met in order to survive. Yet how often do we think about how these choices impact our happiness and success?


Let’s look at pain as an example. When those with arthritis feel stiffness and pain, they want the discomfort to stop. This may cause have them avoid moving as much as possible, but the pain comes right back, and overtime, their health suffers. We can also choose to adopt a fitness routine to help decrease our pain and stiffness. Depending on how dedicated we are to this routine, we would have varying degrees of improvement in our range of motion, muscle strength, and endurance. Both choices address our desire for comfort, but which one might increase our happiness and well-being?


Another example of wants versus needs is our level of socialization. Many of us created habits that keep us at a distance from others. Participation in programs and outings have increased here at Acacia Creek, but we’re not fully back to where we were two years ago before the pandemic. Some people want to continue with new hobbies in their apartments, and others want to be alone. We desire to be alone for different reasons, so if you are spending more time alone, maybe ask yourself if you need for socialization is being met.


Managing our wants to best meet our needs helps us manage stress and keeps us on our successful aging journey. This is especially important when our wants stop us from recognizing choices that will enable us to live our best lives. This can happen when we get too cozy in our comfort zone or when we hang on to habits that no longer serve our best interests.


When we’re not sure what we need but we know change is needed, do something different. Continuing our same habits brings us the same results. Every journey starts with trying new things and being creative. By celebrating each small victory and getting support, we are more likely to follow through. The more we do this, the closer we get to having our needs met in a way that increases our happiness and well-being.

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