Why seeking out the positive makes a difference.
Personal Zen is based on a scientific approach to anxiety and stress reduction called Attention Bias Modification Training (ABMT). Decades of research show that when we become anxious or stressed, we tend to focus too much attention towards the negatives and are less able to see the positives in life. This unconscious habit of attention reduces our ability to cope effectively with stress and can create a vicious cycle of distress and worry.
ABMT instills a habit of flexibly paying attention to the world; a habit in which we can disengage our attention from negative things when we need to, and more easily seek the happy and positive experiences and opportunities around us.
Imagine you are speaking to a room of 25 people. While 24 of them are smiling and nodding, one person is frowning or not engaged in what you are saying. If your attention is strongly drawn to the one negative person, like a spotlight, and you don’t even notice all the positive and engaged members of the audience, this is called a “threat bias,” or selective and exaggerated attention to negative at the expense of positive. If the threat bias becomes a habit, it acts like an information filter, skewing how we see things in the world and how we make decisions. The good news is that, like any habit, we can reduce the threat bias using ABMT and create new, more positive and flexible habits of attention.
In our daily lives, negative and positive experiences compete for our attention, just like the angry and happy sprites in Personal Zen game play.
By tracing the paths left by the happy sprites, repeatedly, our brains soon learn to seek the positive and let go of the negative. This effort happens subconsciously during calming game play, using our proprietary ABMT engine. During the brief session, you are retraining your brain to reduce threat bias, which has the effect of reducing anxiety and strengthening the rebound from stress.
Like any exercise, benefits grow with practice. As you continue to put your focus on the happy sprites, you reduce your threat bias, and increase stress resilience over time by helping to strengthen your focus on the positive.
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. Our clinical studies show that using the app just 6-10 minutes a day, 4 days a week lowers levels of stress hormones known as cortisol, and lowers anxiety. Since stress and anxiety can also present itself as fatigue, sleeplessness, and physical pain or aches, we check for these levels also and give you a dosage based on how you are feeling each day you play.
Combining this core technique with other approaches such as mood tracking, journaling, deep breathing and mindfulness exercises can have increased benefits. You can learn about and try some of these other brief exercises in our Positive Practices section to find what works well for you.
Building mental strength and resilience will give you the energy to take on the day, and allow you to see the world in a whole new way!
For the past 20 years, Dr. Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, the creator of Personal Zen, has directed an NIH-funded research lab translating cutting-edge clinical science and cognitive neuroscience into digital therapeutics targeting anxiety, stress, and other mental and behavioral health problems. Her work has been widely published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and featured on national and international media outlets.
If you want to go deeper, you can read some of our most recent studies below. To be part of the research we do at Wise Therapeutics, you can also sign up at PersonalZen.com to participate in clinical studies and help us create new treatments!
In a study with pregnant women, those using Personal Zen for 5-10 minutes a day, a few days a week showed reductions in the stress hormone cortisol during a controlled stressor. In that same study, stress resilience, the ability to adapt well in stressful situations, was boosted by 21% after using Personal Zen.
In a study with adults experiencing stress and anxiety, stress resilience was boosted by 15% after using Personal Zen in a single sitting.
Men’s adaptive neural response to a stressor was boosted by 85% after using Personal Zen.
Our results integrating tDCS with ABMT provide insight into the mechanisms of AB modulation and support ongoing evaluations of enhanced ABMT reliability and effectiveness via tDCS.