ME/CFS and Cultivating Happiness through Nurturing

In an earlier post I explored the role of loving-kindness in the pursuit of happiness, not in terms of receiving but in terms of giving. We can’t necessarily control how much love and affection we receive from others but we are in control of how much we can give out. Giving love is a wonderfully rewarding experience regardless of how much we get back and it’s something we can do even with small amounts of energy.
One form of expressing love is nurturing.  In order for our species to survive we have evolved to take care of other things. And not just our offspring; we’ve also had to cultivate food: grow plants and look after the animals that both fed us and helped us with the tasks of survival. It made evolutionary sense for us to take pleasure from nurturing. And even though the complexity of modern life has cut many of us off from this direct involvement in nurturing, it’s something we can still choose. There are several low energy ways of nurturing.
This is a great time of year to start planting things. Growing things from seed is incredibly rewarding. It can be so exciting to see the first leaves of a seedling unfurl, and it’s wonderful to watch things grow knowing that you are responsible for their survival and health. I’m a keen vegetable grower and am fortunate to have enough energy to put into it (and help when I don’t). But I also spend far more hours just looking at the garden, taking pleasure in the new growth and in the small daily changes. It’s also great to know that I’m nurturing myself too, by producing organic food that couldn’t be fresher. If you haven’t got the energy/space/help to take on a veggie patch, growing things in pots can be just as rewarding. Lettuce leaves, rocket and herbs can all be grown on the windowsill. Rocket is great because it comes up is days! Flowers are lovely things to grow too. If you grow flowering plants from seed, you can separate them out and give them away to family and friends when they’re about to flower. Then you don’t just get the pleasure of nurturing, you also get the pleasure of giving, and something personal too: something you’ve been intimately involved in! You’re also giving the opportunity to nurture what you give them! Even if you believe you don’t have green fingers, taking care of a houseplant or two can offer the rewards of nurturing.
Low maintenance pets also bring great pleasure to many with this condition, even if, like fish for example, they are incapable of returning your affection. The routine of feeding/watering another living thing can bring meaning and structure to your day. Being responsible for caring for something brings its own rewards.
I believe we all have the potential to gain pleasure from nurturing. Even if it’s only on a very small scale, every little thing that can add to your happiness will all add up. What could you nurture within your energy limits?

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