Mindfulness Course and AF

A few weeks ago SRMGrandma recommended an online course being run by Futurelearn. I have just completed this and wanted to share how I think I have benefitted in relation to my PAF.

I suffer from slow PAF, usually under 80 bpm but with strong heart beats, which I get mostly in the evenings. I take Bisoprolol and Digoxin. Stress can be a trigger for me to get a PAF attack at any time.

Usually I am sceptical of most things alternative, complementary or New Age. However, I wanted to try meditation, which is part of the course. One immediate benefit was that if I meditated in the evening I was able to relax if having a PAF episode. The episodes have also become less frequent.

The course has also taught me to deal with situations that I know are likely to cause me stress in the first place. These techniques include avoiding multi-tasking and getting on with things rather than putting them off. I still have much to learn and will continue to practise.

The course was free and the materials will be available indefinitely. It is possible to interact with other learners. I believe they are going to run it again at some point and I would recommend it to anyone who thinks that stress may be a contributory factor in their illness. The meditations are very enjoyable.

30 Replies

  • That is great news! It is amazing how we can learn to relax, be mindful, and change our responses to stressful situations It takes lots of practice and I really notice benefits and feel a difference in situations that are stressful, when I step back, breathe deeply, and become mindful of each sense. Even my grandchildren are learning that when they are having a meltdown it helps to "feel the floor under your feet, pat your head to feel what you are doing, describe something that you see" and that brings them right back to a calm state. I wish I had learned this when I was a child. I may well have never developed high blood pressure from such a poor stress response.

    Go you! You tried something new, you benefited, and you are sharing. You rock! Keep at it and be well!

  • Can I get some info on this course that MrsPat was talking about. I don't know if stress relates to my AF but I do have anxiety and panic attacks that sometimes go along with the AF. I think a relaxation technique would be helpful. Thank You

  • All of the info is at Futurelearn.com. Good luck!!!

  • Next course starts at Futurelearn on 23 May.

  • Thank you for your post. Like you, I tend towards scepticism and there have been so many cheerleaders for mindfulness of late, I have been rather put off. However, I am revising this, in the light of your post. The courses I have investigated to date have been expensive. The fact that you have clearly benefitted from a not for profit venture is a double bonus. I will look out for the re run.

  • I'm glad this works for you. Keep up the practising.

    I regularly listen to Mindfulness recordings and use other trance and relaxation techniques. They have all helped chip away at my stress and certainly help in my management of my reactions towards AF.

    I think the key is to keep at it, there's no quick fix for the brain, it needs regular training.

    I was very sceptical too at first, but have always believed in the power of brain.

    I'd also be very interested in taking the course you mentioned when it's offered again.

  • Hi Mrspat, you are so right, I do believe stress starts it of. And meditation does help. As long as you don't wait until you are having an episode. Best before you go to sleep. Deepak Chopra runs 21 day meditation programs about 4 times a year, and they are free. Good luck with it all.

  • The great thing is that it IS now taught in many schools, often using computers, but often just excellent teachers well versed in mindfulness. Teaching children how to soothe themselves is the very best gift we can offer humanity in this very troubled world.

    Oh, by the way there is nothing New Age or Alternative in mindfulness which has been practiced since ancient times and has been a part of shamanic and religious practice - just called something else - prayer?

    If we all practised enough it becomes the way of life...........imagine a peaceful, harmonious world.............with no AF???

  • This isn't the right place for me to discuss religious beliefs but I did feel uncomfortable when the word prayer was mentioned. What I was really trying to express was how a state of mind can have physical effects.

    Taking this course won't banish AF. The mind can't cure everything. We can learn to cope better though.

  • Hello Mrspat......I have just completed a course with Futurlearn on Literature and Mental Health. Also at one point there was a brief mention of prayer in an interview on poetry.I was not comfortable with this but it constituted only about 2 or 3 minutes of an otherwise superb course.As a fierce non believer I thought I would mention this re. the mindfulness course.

  • Prayer, it seems to me, is the intentional consideration of a power outside oneself.

    Meditation, it seems to me, is the intentional consideration of the power within oneself.

    They need not be mutually exclusive.

  • Well put. The experience that I have during meditation is not the same as what I understand that people have during prayer. But I guess that the experience will overlap for someone people.

    The course does cover ethics and values but it leaves these open to the interpretation of the individual. If this seems a bit off the AF topic, the relevance is to make one think about how we handle certain situations including what's happening in our bodies.

  • I share your experience - what you find in meditation is internal. The common understanding of prayer is that it's an outward appeal. So the two would seem contradictory. But ... what happens if your appeal is inward? You might "pray" that something happens, and then do something about it. And that seems just what you're saying in your last sentence.

    I have another take on prayer. Gary Zukav wrote, "When you ask the Universe for help, help comes." I don't believe there's anything external about that. Rather, it's the same inner dynamic as in the 12-step program where you give up control to a higher power. That higher power is what you find when you release your conscious mind from having to control things.

    I have a mantra that helps in times of stress and crisis. It starts, "I'm OK," meaning there's nothing inherently wrong with me. It ends with "let go," which engages the dynamic mentioned just above. This has been of enormous help in dealing with A-flutter, AF, and the autoimmune disorder resulting from taking flecainide. Without mindfulness I'm not sure what life would be like, but I feel certain it would involve some kind of basket.

    May all beings be well.

  • Hi Mrs Pat - I am not religious and am uncomfortable with God talk but that is not what I intended to convey, obviously I didn't put that over very well.

    I feel a little misunderstood in that what I was getting at is that mindfulness is exactly what it says - doing, thinking and being internally aware and conscious of our thoughts, feelings and actions. In that practice it is very similar to 'old' faith (not religious) practice such as Shamanic practice and what is evident when you meet people of faith, whatever their beliefs.

    I think we all in some way or another have moments of prayer - an appeal to an external entity, often in moments of stress but the practice of prayer is done with awareness and full mind - which is what I meant. You can pray with absolutely no religious belief. Religions for me is dogma, as is science.

    I agree that with Kadaska interpretation that the common understanding of prayer is an outward appeal and that you can also have an inward 'prayer'.

    I think meditation is slightly different to mindfulness (understand that there are many interpretations and practices of mindfulness - some of which are taught in a rather dogmatic fashion, not unlike religion).

    The important thing with any of these practices is that if it calms you and helps you cope, then works for you so do it!

    Said with mindfulness and many good wishes. CD.

  • Indeed, they mention on the course that meditation is only one aspect of mindfulness. There are many videos and other materials which teach aspects such as self-awareness and compassion.

    Bringing this specifically back to AF, I am now much more aware of what causes me stress and the effects on my body but I fear it will be a long time before I get out of what they call default behaviour.

    Working through issues such as this is the bulk of the course and meditation is only one technique. This won't help all AF sufferers and it isn't a substitute for medical treatment. It might help some of us with the panic and fear and it might help avoid triggers.

    For what it's worth, I have trouble distinguishing between prayer and hopefulness although I do understand The concept. This is not of course a religious forum.

  • Absolutely. I started practicing mindfulness about 25 years ago when going through a very stressful time, which in retrospect, I think was the start of all of my health issues.

    In my experience it takes a lot of hard work and practice to change old habits of thinking and behaviors but persistence and self talk does pay of in the long run. I am not sure if it ever becomes default behavior but it does become much easier with time - bit like riding a bike or driving a car - seems to take an age to learn and become competent but we do in time and now I cannot remember how not to drive or ride a bike.

    Having said that, I had a hissy fit Sat and said some very rude words very loudly in a quilting workshop - just because my muscles stopped working when I was cutting something out so messed up the material. In the grand scheme of things it was nothing, but in the moment I was SO frustrated and angry with my body for not working properly I actually stamped my foot like a 2 year old, which thankfully did work otherwise I would have fallen over! The important thing was that after letting off steam I was able to calm myself quickly and put it into perspective and let go of the emotions.

    You are right, fear and panic is a major part of disease and we AF'ers are especially vulnerable to stress - I have written a few posts about the autonomic nervous system as triggers for AF so anything we can do that reduces those triggers can only be good.

  • Well done Mrspat good result, keep it up and it gets better. I have been doing similar exercises for a year or so and it proved itself the other day when I remained totally calm when my wife was blue lighted to hospital with a suspected stroke.

    To pick up on a couple of things in the discussion those who haven't tried Mindfulness because it's a bit woolly or New Age please do and persist - I am a down to earth Yorkshireman brought up to not even talk about those things let alone do them.

    Secondly as you say this isn't a religious column but it would be a shame not to point out that if you do have Christian beliefs, or no doubt others, it is a big comfort and another tool in the AF box.

  • I have a Christian faith but I am not religious it doesn't bother me if someone mentions the word atheist or non believer or mindfulness its a personal choice

    I do believe in prayer and it helps me. each to their own

  • Sounds very interesting, I will try to look it up. I used to meditate when I was younger but find the aches and pains make it harder to concentrate these days. I can see I'll have to get back into it!

  • I live in Miami, Florida. I also have PAF. Twice a month on average. Where do I get information on this course? Thank you.


  • You can go to Futurelearn.com You can still sign up for it. Put Mindfulness into the search bar and it will pop up.

  • Thank you.


  • I have also just finished this course and found it has made me more aware of what stresses me and how to deal with it. It helps with better listening skills and by pausing and taking deep breaths I can calm myself. Very useful when I am having an AF episode.

    I have meditated for some years, my teacher Prem Rawat gives freely four techniques which really help to still the mind. wopg.org/keys A wonderful calm way to start the day, get problems in perspective and feel thankful for this life.

  • thank you for this and I too will look up the course. I try to be 'mindful' and have looked at books for help but I'm not disciplined enough as yet. However I am hopeful I will get there in the end.

  • How wonderful!

    Are you finding that the time lag between getting upset, or otherwise overstimulated, and seeing through that momentary experience, is getting shorter?

    To me, the ideal state of mindfulness is to see through an emotion as it arises. Still working on that ....

  • I wouldn't be surprised if you could still enrol in the mindfulness course. I am doing a couple of courses through this futurelearn.com and they are free courses which usually run for 5-6 weeks with no pressure and you can take much longer to complete if you need. Some interesting courses and they take your mind off yourself for a while.

  • I am on week 4 of the course and finding it very practical. I have learned a lot about myself and this is helping me to deal with stress. My problem is that i am a control freak and i try to control everything that comes my way. I am learning how to prioritize and to accept a lot of things are beyond my control. One small problem i have is that i fall asleep at some point in every meditation....shortly after i close my eyes ! Never mind i will keep trying.

  • Me too, though it usually takes a few minutes before I start to nod off!

  • I meditate each day and it does help. Also will be taking Mindfulness courses later this year - watch this space.

  • For those who asked, this course is being run again from Monday 23 May via the Futurelearn website.

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