Frequently Asked Questions

You can download the Personal Zen app by searching for it on your iOS or Android device in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

After answering a few questions about your mood and stress level, follow the tutorial and register for your Personal Zen account.

Then select “Play Now” to begin using Personal Zen.

Select the first area on the region map to continue to the game. You can unlock new areas as you level up.

On the next screen, tap “begin”.

You will see two faces appear briefly on the screen, one pleasant and one unpleasant, we call them sprites. They will disappear very quickly. Just let them go, don’t try to catch them or see them clearly. Your brain notices them even without your awareness! 

Your only task is to quickly touch the sparkles, which are only left by the pleasant sprite.

Then, keeping your finger on the screen, smoothly trace the path emerging from the sparkles. 

You will see a purple or gold medallion after you trace.

Find it with your eyes to prepare for where the next set of sprites will appear. 

The “umph” sound occurs when you miss the sparkle or trace too slowly or inaccurately.

Repeat this action until the area restores from black and white to full-color vibrancy. 

Each round of play is just one minute. You can check progress or continue play after each round.

Play for 6-12 minutes a day, 4 times throughout your week for 4 weeks to see the best results. But feel free to use Personal Zen any time, anywhere! More practice builds resilience against stress and anxiety over time.

You can view the instructions for use here

These brief check-ins are a positive mindfulness practice that promote mental well-being and help you keep track of how you’re feeling over time. In addition, the information you provide in your check-ins helps customize your Personal Zen experience, including:

  • Daily dosage
  • Reminders and tracking
  • Personalized content

We maintain a strict, HIPAA-compliant information security system to protect your privacy. If you receive Personal Zen through your employer or organization, we only share de-identified, aggregated data on usage and mood at the population level. If you receive Personal Zen through your provider, you may opt in to provide your usage and mood data to your provider. Your journal is completely private and only for you.

When you start Personal Zen, you will be asked a few questions about your current mood. After this brief assessment, Personal Zen will give you a personalized daily dosage recommendation between 6-12 minutes.

You can use Personal Zen whenever you need to, but we recommend you block out the best time in your day for a break to reinforce the habit. It could be after breakfast, during a coffee break, on your commute, or after you finish your work and decompress. Set a recurring reminder on your calendar so you don’t forget!

We recommend that you use Personal Zen four times a week for at least four weeks. If you consistently feel heightened levels of stress and anxiety, we recommend you also evaluate treatment options with a mental health professional.

 After you swipe, the purple and gold medallions show you where to focus your attention before the next sprites appear. Purple medallions appear when you correctly trace the path and are worth 2 points. Gold medallions are worth three points and appear if you are highly accurate and fast. If you get three gold medallions in a row, you will get a shiny gold medallion worth four points! You can use points to level up and unlock new maps, but points don’t affect the app’s ability to reduce your stress so don’t worry if you don’t get gold.

When we get anxious or stressed, we pay too much attention to the negatives and have less ability to see the positives in life. Studies show that Personal Zen helps to short-circuit these habits and frees you up to develop a more flexible and positive focus. You can reduce your stress and anxiety in as little as one sitting, and the more you play, the more you strengthen your well-being against the negative effects of stress.

Personal Zen uses facial stimuli and gamification to re-train emotional and attentional patterns that can drive persistent feelings of anxiety and distress.

Why Faces? Facial expressions are unique in their ability to capture our attention and prime our social and emotional responses. This is because we have evolved to navigate complex social interactions through subconscious, sub-second processing of facial expressions. 

Attention Bias Modification (ABM)  is a family of evidence-based cognitive training interventions that involve screen-based interactions with facial stimuli. Through the repetition of these interactions, ABM re-trains the associated neural pathways to produce positive mental health outcomes.

Through a decade of placebo-controlled, NIH-funded research and development, Personal Zen is the first and only clinically validated intervention to combine ABM with an engaging mobile game format.

Personal Zen’s game design has been optimized through a decade of neurocognitive research using eye-tracking, EEG, neurostimulation and heart rate monitoring. The fast appearance and disappearance of the sprites are a crucial component of engaging subconscious emotional and attentional cognitive patterns. Our research has shown that if the stimuli appear for too long the technique doesn’t work as effectively! 

We recommend that you play Personal Zen 6-12 minutes four times a week for at least four weeks to see the best results.

The music and sounds can be controlled from the settings section of the menu, which is accessible from the top right screen once you’re in game play. Please note that you must have the volume and sound of your device turned on to be able to hear Personal Zen’s music and sound.

Yes, by setting up Family Sharing on your iOS devices, family members are able to share a subscription to Personal Zen.

Click here for instructions on setting up Family Sharing. 

While you may have deleted the app, you will need to cancel your subscription to stop monthly payment. To do so, follow the instructions under ‘How do I cancel my subscription?’ below.

You can unsubscribe by following the following path if you are an iPhone user: 

Phone Settings → Apple ID, iCloud, Media & Purchases (usually right at the top of settings) → Subscriptions → Personal Zen.


Or if you downloaded Personal Zen on an Android device, the following path should allow you to unsubscribe: 

Google Play Store → Menu → Subscriptions → Personal Zen → Cancel Subscription.

If you would like to receive updates on Personal Zen, recent research, digital mental health news, as well as speaking events by our co-founder, Dr. Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, please sign up for our newsletter and visit her personal website. Stay tuned for exciting new updates coming soon!