Fight fibromyalgia pain with the “compassion cure”

It’s easy to feel stuck when you have a chronic pain disorder like fibromyalgia. You know lifestyle changes like eating healthy and exercising will make you feel better. But you’re so tired and in so much pain, you can’t imagine getting out of bed, let alone working out. And going to the grocery store and THEN coming home to cook? Forget about it!

It feels completely impossible.

That’s why it might be easier to start with a natural remedy that requires less physical energy when you have so little to spare. And that’s where the power of mind comes into play.

You’ve heard all about the mind-body connection. Well, how about using this connection to find relief from your fibromyalgia?

Even if you only find an inkling of relief from your debilitating condition, it might be enough to make 15 minutes of gentle yoga feel possible again. Or you may have enough energy to get up and make yourself a green smoothie. Gradually, those little actions will add up, and eventually your symptoms will become minimal… or may even go away altogether.

This is hard to imagine when your fibromyalgia is at its worst. But it’s absolutely possible to tame your fibromyalgia through healthy living. Many people have done it. And if they can do it, you can too.

But you need to take the first step. And it’s okay if that step is more mental than physical. In fact, a recent study shows that a simple mental exercise may be a good starting point if you want to get “unstuck” from the cycle of debilitating fibromyalgia symptoms…

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How compassion treats fibromyalgia symptoms

A recent collaborative study from researchers in Spain, Italy and the U.K. found a simple way to significantly reduce fibromyalgia symptoms in people with severe cases of the disease — compassion therapy.

The study included 42 women, most of whom had severe fibromyalgia symptoms. The women were split into two groups. One group practiced Attachment-based Compassion Therapy (ABCT) and the other group practiced relaxation techniques.

In the end, the women who practiced compassion therapy had substantial improvements in their fibromyalgia symptoms, their mental well-being and their quality of life. Here are some of the benefits they experienced:

  • Their fibromyalgia symptoms decreased by 36 percent.
  • They eased their anxiety by 45 percent.
  • Their depression diminished by 54 percent.
  • They improved their quality of life by 38 percent.

Wow! These are some impressive results… results that you’d probably love to duplicate if you have fibromyalgia. But you’re probably wondering… what the heck is Attachment-based Compassion Therapy (ABCT), anyway?

Well, it’s somewhat similar to cognitive-behavioral therapy, where you work on reframing your thought patterns to make them less destructive and more conducive to happiness and health. In Attachment-based Compassion Therapy, however, the focus is specifically on training your thought patterns to be more mindful and compassionate.

In the study, women participated in eight 2.5 hour therapy sessions that included mindfulness training and compassion exercises. The compassion exercises involved receiving and giving compassion to friends, individuals in your life that challenge you, strangers and yourself.

If you’re thinking that this type of therapy sounds complicated and like you’ll need to see a professional therapist to do it, don’t worry. I have a simple compassion therapy hack you can do from the comfort of your own home…

Starting your own compassion therapy practice

If you’re familiar with Buddhism, you may have heard about a Buddhist practice that’s similar to what women did in this study. It’s called loving-kindness meditation, and it involves sending compassion and loving-kindness to yourself, your loved ones, strangers — even to your enemies.

To practice this type of meditation, you need to:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position and breathe deeply.
  2. Focus your attention on your breath going in and out for a few minutes, so you can calm your body and clear your thoughts before you begin.
  3. Then picture someone that you love (a friend, family member, teacher, pet… alive or deceased). Focus on the feelings that arise in your heart, like warmth, tenderness and opening.
  4. Next, imagine a gold light shining out from your heart and extending toward your loved one, making him or her feel peaceful and happy.
  5. Then, silently recite the following phrases a couple of times:
    • May you have happiness.
    • May you be free from suffering.
    • May you experience joy and ease.
  1. Now, imagine a time when your loved one was suffering, whether due to a physical illness, injury or an emotional challenge.
  2. Notice what your heart feels like now. Does it still feel warm and open? Or do you feel sadness and pain?
  3. Picture a gold light shining out from your heart toward your loved one, easing his or her suffering.
  4. Send the light out as you exhale and recite these phrases:
    • May you be free from this suffering.
    • May you have joy and happiness.
    • May you be free from this suffering.
    • May you have joy and happiness.
  5. Repeat steps 6-9 for yourself, a stranger and someone you consider an enemy.

If you prefer audio guidance so you don’t have to memorize all those steps, here are more detailed instructions and a 30 minute audio compassion meditation you can practice daily. If you practice this meditation for 30 minutes per day for two weeks, you should notice a difference in your mental well-being… and hopefully your fibromyalgia symptoms too.

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  1. Fibromyalgia sufferers see chronic pain symptoms reduced in new meditation therapy study — MedicalXpress. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  2. Montero-Marin, et al. “Efficacy of ‘Attachment-Based Compassion Therapy’ (ABCT) in the treatment of fibromyalgia: a randomized controlled trial.” — Frontiers in Psychology, January 2018.
  3. Compassion Meditation — Greater Good Science Center, University of California-Berkley. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and