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Bethan Mooney for TIME

How Meditation Helps You Handle Stress Better

Stress is a modern mental bogeyman, keeping nearly half of Americans up at night, according to a recent survey from the American Psychological Association. Many say they don't do anything to combat it, yet it takes a toll; stress is linked to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

Now, there’s fresh evidence in favor of mindfulness practices—not just sitting cross-legged in meditation—to help ease stress and anxiety. In a new study published in the journal Psychiatry Research, anxious people who took a mindfulness course where they learned several different strategies reacted to stress better and had a lower hormonal and inflammatory response than people who didn't practice mindfulness.

“There’s been some real skepticism in the medical community about meditation and mindfulness meditation,” says lead author Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, associate professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical Center. She and her team wanted to find out whether people merely felt better after meditating, or if doing so caused real, measurable changes in the body’s markers of stress.

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