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Small Meditation Sessions Shrink Stress

Update Date: Jul 02, 2014 03:30 PM EDT

Feeling overwhelmed by stress? Skip the Xanax, and try out mindfulness meditation.

New research reveals that three days of 25 minute-long mindfulness meditation can significantly dampen psychological stress.

Researchers said that latest findings suggest how the technique can influence people's ability to endure stress.

"More and more people report using meditation practices for stress reduction, but we know very little about how much you need to do for stress reduction and health benefits," lead author J. David Creswell, associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, said in a news release.

The study involved 66 healthy participants between the ages of 18 and 30. These participants were asked to take part in a three-day experiment where some underwent brief mindfulness meditation training programs for 25 minutes for three consecutive days. Others were asked to learn breathing exercises that could help monitor their breath and pay attention to their present moment experiences. The study also involved a matched control group where participants were asked to enhance their problem-solving skills through poetry analysis.

Afterwards, participants were asked to complete stressful speech and math tasks in front of "stern" researchers, who recorded their stress levels by measuring cortisol levels in saliva samples.

Researchers found that people in the mindfulness meditation group reported feeling less stress when performing speech and math tasks. However, these participants also showed greater cortisol reactivity in saliva samples.

"When you initially learn mindfulness mediation practices, you have to cognitively work at it - especially during a stressful task," said Creswell. "And, these active cognitive efforts may result in the task feeling less stressful, but they may also have physiological costs with higher cortisol production."

The latest findings were published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

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