The Science Behind Personal Zen

Personal Zen is based on a cutting edge, scientific approach to stress reduction called attention bias modification training (ABMT). ABMT was developed for treating anxiety, but also has powerful stress-reduction and resilience-boosting effects. The goal of ABMT is to instill a habit of flexibly paying attention to the world; a habit in which we can disengage our attention from negative things in the world when we need to, and more easily benefit from the positive experiences and opportunities around us.

Decades of research shows that when we become anxious or stressed, we tend to focus too much attention towards the negatives and have less ability to see the positives in life. This habit of attention reduces our ability to cope effectively with stress and can create a vicious cycle of fear and worry.

Luckily, habits can be broken and new habits learned! Personal Zen helps to short-circuit these negative habits of attention and allows the user to develop a more flexible and positive focus. By using Personal Zen just a few minutes a day, a few days a week, you can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, strengthen well-being, and build resilience against the curve balls life sometimes throws.

Brief training with Personal Zen can even reduce your body’s stress response! In a clinical trial of Personal Zen with expecting mothers, those who used the app for 10 minutes a day, a few days a week over the course of a month showed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and lower anxiety.


For more about our research on Personal Zen, please see the following:

Dennis-Tiwary, T. A., Denefrio, S., & Gelber, S. (2017). Salutary effects of an attention bias modification mobile application on biobehavioral measures of stress and anxiety during pregnancyBiological Psychology127, 148-156.

Dennis-Tiwary, T., Egan, L.J., Babkirk, S., and Denefrio, S. (2016). For whom the bell tolls: Neurocognitive individual differences in the acute stress-reduction effects of an attention bias modification game for anxietyBehaviour Research and Therapy, 77, 105-117.

Dennis, T., & Denefrio, S. (April, 2016). A Gamified Attention Bias Modification App Reduces Stress and Anxiety During Pregnancy. Poster presented at the Experiential Technology and Neurogaming Conference, San Francisco, CA.

Dennis, T.A., & O’Toole, L. (2014). Mental health on the go: Effects of a gamified attention bias modification mobile application in trait anxious adults.Clinical Psychological Science, 2(2), 1-15.

Poster: O’Toole, L.J., Berthod, S., Babkirk, S., Simmons, A., Rios, V., Quintero, J., & Dennis, T.A.  (2014, September).  Gamifying mental health: Neurocognitive predictors and gender-specific effects of a mobile attention modification game for stress and anxiety.  Poster presented at the 54th annual convention of the Society for Psychophysiological Research, Atlanta, GA.

Poster: O’Toole, L. J., Quintero, J., Ahmed, S., Rieder, J., & Dennis, T. A. (2013, October). Attention bias modification in high trait anxious adults: An ERP study. Poster session presented at the 53rd annual convention of the Society for Psychophysiological Research, Florence, IT.

Poster: Dennis, T. A., Dunn, E., Simmons, A.,& Ahmed, S.(2013, May). There’s an App for That: A Pilot Test of an Anxiety- and Stress-Reduction App. Poster session presented at the 25th annual convention of the Association for Psychological Science., Washington, DC.

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Personal Zen has built-in tools to help train your mind towards a more positive focus. This focus buffers against feelings of stress and anxiety.

Explore an Idyllic World

Encounter different lands and inhabitants while helping to restore vibrancy to their lives and yours.

Set Personal Goals

Use Personal Zen according to how stressed you feel. If you’re mildly stressed, set a weekly goal between 5-10 minutes every other day. If you’re moderately stressed, train for a few minutes longer, but remember to take breaks in between days to enhance the effects of the training.

Reduce Anxiety & Stress

Reduce your stress and feelings of anxiety in as little as one sitting. Use for longer periods of time to build stress resilience or combat stronger feelings of anxiety.

Listen Along

Enhance your experience of Personal Zen by turning the sound on, or plugging in your headphones. The calm and soothing music will help to enrich the effects of the app.

Track Stress Levels

Set a weekly goal and track your stress levels with each session. Even training for only a few minutes a week, before or after a stressful situation, can boost your well-being.

Earn Acheivements

Get inspirational quotes once you meet your weekly goal and motivational tips on other ways to reduce stress and anxiety. Remember, Personal Zen is an important step along the path to well-being, but using Personal Zen along with other stress-reduction tools will amplify the positive effects!