Personal Zen: A Professional Review | One Mind PsyberGuide (2023)

Product Description

Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health disorders with up to 33.7% of people experiencing an anxiety disorder at some point in their life. Anxiety disorders are undertreated and associated with extensive health care costs.[i] Persons who experience problematic anxiety tend to focus attention on perceived threats and negative consequences. This negative attentional pattern perpetuates stress and anxiety.

Personal Zen is an easily accessible, gamified mobile app, designed to reduce anxiety and stress in daily life. The Personal Zen App approach to treatment attempts to change this attentional pattern thus reducing stress and anxiety. The app engages users in a gamified version of attention bias modification training. This game redirects the user’s attention and focus towards positive stimuli, while training the user to disengage from perceived threats and negative stimuli. The ultimate goal of Personal Zen is to transfer attentional practices, obtained with game play, to everyday life situations. By applying this practice to everyday life, the user could experience a reduction in daily stress and anxiety symptoms.[ii]

Personal Zen is free and available in the iTunes app store for Apple iOS devices. Its gamified approach is novel, differing considerably from traditional treatment practices. It increases the accessibility of attentional bias modification training by making it available for mobile devices. In addition, the user may receive benefits of stress reduction while using an app that might be associated with less stigma when used in different public spaces.

Ease of Use and User Experience

The Personal Zen App requires iOS 7.1 or later. The app logo contains the Personal Zen happy sprite icon which is a large, and colorful character. Upon launching the app, the game plays pleasant spa-like music and immediately begins by presenting two mood-contrasting sprites – a happy sprite and an angry sprite. The sprites quickly disappear from the app screen by burrowing into separate holes. After the sprites burrow underground, the user must ignore the burrowed angry sprite and attempt to trace the happy sprite’s path. Rustling landscape grass identifies the paths created by the sprites. Upon successfully tracing the happy sprite path, the app displays a reward emblem and emits a corresponding pleasant sound. After successfully completing several play rounds, the game concludes by displaying the Stage Completed sign. By receiving repeated in-game rewards and positive reinforcement, the user learns to shift attention away from potential perceived threats and instead shift attention towards positive cues, thereby decreasing stress and anxiety.[iii]

The participant may play one game or multiple sequential games. Each game lasts for approximately a one-minute interval. However, there is no game competition, game level progression or game time limit. The app presents enticing and inspiring game titles like: Easy Breezy, Easy on Sunday Morning, Chilling, Zen Master, Unruffled, and Happy as a Clam.

Game play may consist of as many of these game sessions as a user wants for either brief or extended uses. The game settings suggest weekly play-time goals between 10 to 40 minutes. The app suggests 40 minutes of weekly play-time for optimal stress reduction.

User Interface

The app logo design contains an attractive, colorful happy sprite icon. Upon first launch, the animated game begins in portrait mode. The game design consists of a simple animated touch interface, which engages the user by employing a finger swiping motion on screen targets. The game screen size may be minimized or played on the device’s full screen size. However, the app does not rotate with the mobile device to landscape mode.[iv]

Personal Zen offers users versatility in different mobile contexts. The game’s large touch-screen targets of a happy sprite and rustling grass simplify swiping and game interaction. This design allows easy accessibility while on the go or while feeling stressed. Users may also play Personal Zen at scheduled times, while bored, or during restful times.

The Personal Zen menu tab is located at the left side of the app. The menu tab lists the categories of: Game, My Activity, Settings, Tutorial, Terms and Conditions and Send Feedback. Tapping the Game tab reverts the user back to game play.

Tapping the Activities setting displays a round progress-tracking wheel that records the user’s game-play minutes per day of the week. The tracking wheel displays daily weekday activity in pie-shaped segments of the wheel. It also displays the user’s weekly play goal in the wheel center. For example, if the user sets a play goal of 15 minutes, the wheel displays 15 minutes in the dark green center portion of the wheel.

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Tapping the Settings tab opens the user’s goal setting chart. The chart displays a linear horizontal bar containing a time marker and labeled time intervals, ranging from 10 to 40 minutes. The user may set the weekly play goal by sliding the touch sensitive time-marker. The app labels the 10-minute level as “Maintain Positive Outlook”. On the opposite extreme the app labels the higher 40-minute level as “Stress Busting”. Although the app settings indicate that optimal stress reduction occurs with 40 minutes of weekly play, continuous 40 minute play intervals are unlikely because of user time constraints and game play distractions.[v]

The Tutorial section gives a brief and concise explanation of the game goals: to focus on the positive sprite and thereby reduce stress by focusing on positive stimuli in everyday life.

The Term and Conditions section contains the app rights license, restrictions of use, ownership, trademarks, links and marks, confidentiality and other legal descriptions of app use and restrictions. The products and services specifically define app use age restrictions. It also defines the limits of clinical use and defines its entertainment goal.

The app menu also contains a tab where users may send feedback to Personal Zen via email.

Appropriateness of Content

Personal Zen has a 4+ rating and is void of adult content. Although the app’s Products and Services section indicates that its use is intended for persons over the age of 18, it seems appropriate for all age use. Additionally, the Terms and Conditions section indicates that the app is intended only for informational and entertainment purposes. The app is not intended to medically treat or diagnoses disease or substitute or replace medical advice. Like most mobile game instructions; users are also advised against engaging in game activity while driving, using machinery or when using mood-altering substances.

Appropriateness of Feedback

Personal Zen user feedback ratings are posted on iTunes. There are 87 posted ratings for all versions with an average 3-star rating. There are 10 ratings of the current app version which revealed an average 3-star rating. Three users posted 1-star ratings, describing the app as useless. In contrast, there were two 5-star ratings where users commented that the app was highly effective in reducing anxiety.

The game participant may send feedback directly from the app to Personal Zen developers, via an in-app email link. However, feedback to the game participant is minimal, and occurs in the game activity section. This section contains the activity chart which tracks daily game play-time, and weekly progress.

Cognitive Challenge

Personal Zen is easy to use but requires user concentration and swift motor responses for touch screen interaction with app targets. Concentration, focused attention, and rapid user response are required to tap and trace the burrowed happy sprite path. The app requires no previous game experience. Organic impairment of cognition and motor function may impede game use.

Ease of Account Management

Personal Zen app account use is limited to tracking game play time progression. The user is not required to register personal or demographic information. Users may receive app updates by subscribing to the Personal Zen email newsletter.

Scientific Basis

Prevalence rates of anxiety disorders have remained consistent over the past several years and occur more frequently than other mental health disorders. Approximately one third of the population experiences an anxiety disorder at some point during their life. Anxiety disorders are associated with significant impairment and immense health care costs.[vi] Professional anxiety treatment is underutilized because of costs, treatment accessibility, stigma, and time constraints.

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Personal Zen is a gamified app which aims to reduce stress and anxiety. The app introduces a gamified version of attention bias modification training which has been demonstrated elsewhere to reduce stress and anxiety. The rationale behind attention bias modification training is that stress and anxiety may be reinforced by cognitive and attentional biases. Cognitive biases represent a person’s thought patterns and interpretations, which may distort environmental cues. Attentional bias occurs when a person directs attention towards perceived threats and negative stimuli, while ignoring positive stimuli. Studies have shown a link between cognitive bias and attention biases in anxiety states.[vii] In theory, ongoing attentional focus on perceived threats and negative consequences promotes anxiety and may reduce attention to conflicting information such as positive information or safety cues.[viii]

Previous studies showed that cognitive bias modification training through computerized dot probe tasks reduced negative attention bias and anxiety. Although beneficial, this standard computerized treatment delivery method was boring for users.[ix] Attention bias modification training was developed from treatment theory stemming from neurocognitive anxiety models. This training directs attention away from perceived threatening stimuli and instead directs attention towards a non-threatening stimuli. Former studies of this retraining method resulted in reducing threat bias and subsequent anxiety.[x] Previous studies also demonstrated that attention biased modification training resulted in symptom reduction of persons suffering from generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder and social phobia.[xi]

In September 2014, Tracy A. Dennis and Laura O’Toole published a study of a version of the Personal Zen app game. The authors noted that the app incorporated components of the classic attention bias modification training. However, the app’s gamified mobile delivery was proposed to be more engaging and accessible than previous computerized versions of attention bias modification training. The research goal was to determine if the gamified version replicated the effects of the classic attention bias modification training in reducing participant anxiety.

Study participants played short and long game sessions of 25 and 45 minutes respectively. The results were compared to placebo groups. The researchers measured anxiety scores of participants prior to app training and after app training. Researchers also observed participants performing anxiety provoking tasks after completing the game.[xii] Participants completing one training session of Personal Zen, of both 25-minute and 45-minute intervals, experienced diminished subjective anxiety and observed stress reactivity compared to those receiving the placebo control. However, only participants receiving the longer 45-minute training intervals experienced decreased threat bias and increased ability to disengage from negative stimuli.[xiii]

A later study, published in April 2015 by Tracy A. Dennis-Tiwary and colleagues examined the impact of physiologic indicators of anxiety. This study included anxiety-sensitive EEG readings. In this 2015 study, a single app play session of 25 minutes resulted in improved performance in stress related tasks in females, but not males. Consistent with the early study, attention biased modification training in the 25-minute interval play session did not reduce measures of threat bias in participants.[xiv]

Although these studies found promising benefits of the Personal Zen app, they were conducted under controlled lab conditions and did not include subjects with a clinical diagnosis of anxiety disorder. There is no available data that demonstrates efficacy in subjects clinically diagnosed with anxiety disorder or the impact in real-world settings or daily use.

Qualitative Review of Program Efficiency

Personal Zen diminishes anxiety though an efficient, gamified mobile app delivery platform. The app is free and easily accessible. Moreover, game play requires minimal expenditure of time and effort. The researchers achieved the goal of developing an anxiety-reducing app that bypasses other anxiety treatment barriers including: expense, access, stigma and time constraints.[xv]

Estimate of Efficacy Relative to Similar Products

Personal Zen differs from other anxiety reducing apps by introducing a more visually-appealing and gamified version of attention biased modification training. Although research studies demonstrate anxiety reduction with Personal Zen game play, there are no available studies which compare the Personal Zen efficacy with other apps purporting to reduce anxiety. Other apps claiming to reduce anxiety include: SuperBetter, Anxiety Release and Bilateral Stimulation, Flowy, and Phobia Free amongst others.[xvi] While these apps are intended to provide anxiety reduction techniques, most do not so in a game like fashion.

The Personal Zen app does not include a method of recording anxiety levels for pre and post-game use in the uncontrolled, everyday living conditions of game users. Also, there are no in-app user efficacy rating scales. Adding a section for anxiety assessment submission after game play, would be helpful in defining the apps effectiveness in everyday life. Furthermore, incorporation of a wearable device tool, that can measure physiological anxiety parameters would improve efficacy documentation.


The app is free on the iTunes app store.

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More information on the product and how to buy it

Date of review: March 2017


















How much does Personal Zen cost? ›

Personal Zen is free and available in the iTunes app store for Apple iOS devices.

Does Personal Zen app work? ›

After 4 weeks of usage, clinical effects have included a 38% reduction in anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory), a 491% reduction in cognitive signs of anxiety (Dot-Probe Task Measure), as well as a statistically significant reduction in the stress hormone cortisol.

What does Personal Zen do? ›

Personal Zen is a science-based brain-training exercise created to reduce stress and anxiety within minutes and build resilience over time. Using a clinically validated algorithm, Personal Zen recharges our mental batteries by training our brains to focus on the positive instead of the negative.

Is Personal Zen app free? ›

The current pandemic has further highlighted the need for more accessible treatments, with 53% of adults in the US reporting increasing feelings of stress and worry as of July 2020. To help serve this need, a free version of Personal Zen is being offered on iOS and released on Android for the first time.

Is Zen good for Mental Health? ›

Meditation and mindfulness practices like Zen Therapy have also been shown to have a variety of other positive effects, both mentally and physically, such as promoting feelings of calmness, improving sleep and immune function, reducing feelings of stress and increasing self-awareness.

How does Zen make you feel? ›

Neuroscience research shows that practicing a Zen mindset may actually calm the mind, bring more clarity, and allow us to act with more kindness. With a Zen mindset, you can allow your thoughts, feelings, and perceptions to be what they are without judgment.

Is Zen meditation good for anxiety? ›

The study suggests that when practiced long-term, Zen meditation improves concentration and emotional regulation. Other potential benefits of Zen meditation include: stress and anxiety reduction. increased self-awareness.

Are mindfulness apps worth it? ›

Research indicates that many people feel significantly less stressed after using meditation apps for as little as two weeks. Even those who don't report this destressed feeling show signs in their bodies that indeed the meditation apps are helping to reduce their stress. Do meditation apps work?

Are meditation apps safe? ›

While Headspace and other meditation apps are probably safe for most people, some experts recommend checking in with a mental health or mindfulness professional before trying to meditate, especially if you have experienced trauma in the past.

What is Zen mode of mind? ›

or zen : a state of calm attentiveness in which one's actions are guided by intuition rather than by conscious effort.

How do I start a Zen lifestyle? ›

8 Zen-Living Tips That Can Change Your Life
  1. Keep only what is necessary. Zen living means removing items that are not necessary to your life. ...
  2. Allow space. ...
  3. Adopt a simple way of living. ...
  4. Live mindfully. ...
  5. Don't multi-task. ...
  6. Do less. ...
  7. Meditate. ...
  8. Be grateful.
Apr 28, 2017

What is attention bias modification treatment? ›

Attention bias modification training (ABMT) is a computer-based attention training programme designed to modify the way a person's attention is directed to mild threats in the environment. What a person focuses their attention on plays an important role in how safe or unsafe they feel in certain situations.

Is Zen safe for payment? ›

Zen Payments provides the highest-quality customer service, low high-risk merchant rates, full chargeback protection, and a friend in the credit card processing industry.

Do you have to pay for Zen match? ›

This is an Auto-renewable subscription. The payment is charged to your account after confirmation. The subscription is renewed unless you turn it off 24 hours before the period ends.

Which is the best app like Zen mode? ›

Similar to Zen Mode
  • WhatsApp Business. Manage your official WhatsApp Business account from your smartphone.
  • Google Chrome. The official Google browser.
  • Viber.
  • A fantastic communication tool for gamers.
  • Google Meet. A straightforward video chat app.
  • Opera Mini. ...
  • Samsung Internet Browser. ...
  • Opera Browser.

What are the side effects of Zen meditation? ›

“Some of the adverse effects include 'an altered sense of self and world,' 'auditory, visual hallucinations,' 'perceptual hypersensitivity' and 'out of body experiences. ' Those are all listed as adverse effects whereas, in quite a few Buddhist traditions, these are the goals of meditation," Salguero said.

What are Zen main beliefs? ›

Zen is a school of Buddhism which emphasises the practice of meditation as the key ingredient to awakening ones inner nature, compassion and wisdom. The practice of meditation (Zen in Japanese) as a means of attaining enlightenment was introduced, as we have seen, by the Buddha himself.

Is Zen a religious practice? ›

Zen as a practice, even when drained of its traditional, Buddhist elements, reveals the essence of all religions—that which is beyond human divisions of race, ethnicity, gender, and even religion itself. So it is that Zen meditation may be practiced by people of any religion as a way to deepen their respective faiths.

How does Zen meditation change the brain? ›

Meditation is shown to thicken the pre-frontal cortex. This brain center manages higher order brain function, like increased awareness, concentration, and decision making. Changes in the brain show, with meditation, higher-order functions become stronger, while lower-order brain activities decrease.

Does Zen believe in afterlife? ›

Neither Buddha nor his zen followers had time for any notion of an afterlife. The doctrine of reincarnation can be more accurately thought about as a constant rebirth, of death throughout life, and the continual coming and going of universal energy, of which we are all part, before and after death.

What are the three stages of Zen? ›

Through his exploration of the three pillars of Zen -- teaching, practice, and enlightenment -- Roshi Kapleau presents a comprehensive overview of this ancient oriental discipline, making it useful to both initiates and long-time disciples.

How do you relax deeply? ›

Other relaxation techniques may include:
  1. Deep breathing.
  2. Massage.
  3. Meditation.
  4. Tai chi.
  5. Yoga.
  6. Biofeedback.
  7. Music and art therapy.
  8. Aromatherapy.

How long does Zen meditation last? ›

Each session lasts about 30 to 50 minutes, alternated with walking meditation, short breaks and meals. Meals are taken in silence as part of the practice, usually with oryoki bowls. Brief periods of work are also performed mindfully. Today, such Zen meditation retreats are practiced in Taiwan, Japan and the West.

What is the best meditation for anxiety and panic attacks? ›

Meditation Ideas for Panic Attacks
  • Five Senses Meditation. ...
  • Breathing Meditation. ...
  • Mindful Breathing. ...
  • Lengthening Your Exhales. ...
  • Square Breathing. ...
  • Belly Breathing. ...
  • Body Scan Meditation. ...
  • Guided Meditations.
Dec 9, 2021

What are the disadvantages of mindfulness therapy? ›

Key points. Mindfulness has potential downsides that are often ignored. For some people, mindfulness practices could increase the stress response, negative emotions, dissociation, and even inhibit sleep.

Are there any disadvantages to mindfulness? ›

Cons of Being Mindful: It takes work, practice, and personal effort. Its just another thing you should do. Sometimes, being more aware can actually increase personal frustration or judgment. It doesn't always help.

How many times a week should you practice mindfulness? ›

A daily practice will provide the most benefits. It can be 10 minutes per day, however, 20 minutes twice a day is often recommended for maximum benefit.

What meditation app is FDA approved? ›

Headspace is paving the way for the first FDA-approved prescription meditation app. Developers behind the mindfulness smartphone app, which has over 30 million users, are creating a new product under Headspace Health that will begin clinical trials this summer, in hopes of clearing FDA approval by 2020.

What are the disadvantages of meditation apps? ›

Meditation apps offer numerous advantages, including accessibility, guidance, variety, and progress tracking. However, they also come with potential drawbacks such as dependency on technology and the absence of in-person guidance and community.

What is better calm or headspace? ›

Both Headspace and Calm are excellent apps for meditation and mindfulness practices. Headspace is a bit more inclusive in terms of skill level, while Calm offers more advanced features that may be more appealing to those with more meditation experience.

What are the four statements of Zen? ›

The four Zen mottos, “special transmission outside doctrine,” “not to establish language,” “direct point to the mind,” and “seeing into one's nature and attaining the Buddhahood,” address the fundamental questions about language in its role of the expression and transmission of the spirituality.

Is Zen a religion or philosophy? ›

Zen is short for Zen Buddhism. It is sometimes called a religion and sometimes called a philosophy. Choose whichever term you prefer; it simply doesn't matter. Zen is not a philosophy or a religion.

What is the difference between Zen and mindfulness? ›

Zen meditation is similar to mindfulness in that it's about focusing on the presence of mind. However, mindfulness focuses on a specific object, and Zen meditation involves a general awareness.

How do I find my inner Zen? ›

10 Tips To Find Zen In The Chaos Of Everyday Life
  1. Close your eyes. Anytime you want, you can stop and pull the blinds shut and turn your gaze inward. ...
  2. Take deep breaths with a mantra. First, find your breath. ...
  3. Walk or bike instead of driving. ...
  4. Take a five-minute pause (dhyana).
Jun 29, 2020

How can I be Zen with anxiety? ›

Zen practitioners develop a sense of balance, as well as simplicity, order, and harmony. Right diet, regular exercise, enough sleep, right livelihood, and mindfulness activities such as meditation, yoga, prayer, and other techniques help us recover from too much stress.

How do I find my Zen? ›

Here are nine ways you can learn how to find your Zen.
  1. Admit How You Feel. ...
  2. Take a Deep Breath. ...
  3. Ask for Help. ...
  4. Unplug from Your Gadgets and Avoid Numbing Out. ...
  5. Do Something that Nourishes You. ...
  6. Embrace a Slight Shift Toward Positivity. ...
  7. Ask Yourself What Bravery and Positive Action Would Look Like in This Situation.
Dec 15, 2019

What are the two types of attentional control? ›

Studies related to attentional control and performance take two differing approaches. Specifically, research on attentional capture has two modes: voluntary and reflexive. The voluntary mode is a top down approach where attention is shifted according to high-level cognitive processes.

What is an example of attentional bias in real life? ›

Simply put, an attentional bias is a tendency to attend to certain information over other information. For example, when really hungry, you may find yourself inordinately distracted by food related words or images, and you may have a hard time thinking of anything other than food.

How much does ZEN charge to withdraw? ›

With the Pay with ZEN service, the deposit and withdrawal cost will be 1% of the funds transferred.

How do I receive money from ZEN? ›

ZEN Buddies

Make transfers to other ZEN users free of charge and lightning-fast. The money arrives in your recipient's account in seconds. All it requires is the phone number of the recipient. And if they don't use ZEN yet, you can send them money anyway – they can collect it once they open a ZEN account.

How long does ZEN pay take? ›

Zen card payments are usually instant, but in some cases, it can take an hour or two for the payment to clear.

How much is Personal Zen? ›

The Personal Zen app is available now with a 6-month free trial period, then with introductory pricing for $1.99 monthly or $12.99 annually. Visit to learn more about the app or download it from the Apple App Store. Android coming soon.

Is Personal Zen free? ›

The current pandemic has further highlighted the need for more accessible treatments, with 53% of adults in the US reporting increasing feelings of stress and worry as of July 2020. To help serve this need, a free version of Personal Zen is being offered on iOS and released on Android for the first time.

How much does Zen app cost? ›

Zen offers auto-renewing subscription options: US$ 10.99 per month and US$ 39.99 per year. These prices are for United States customers.

Does personal Zen app work? ›

After 4 weeks of usage, clinical effects have included a 38% reduction in anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory), a 491% reduction in cognitive signs of anxiety (Dot-Probe Task Measure), as well as a statistically significant reduction in the stress hormone cortisol.

Does Zen mode allow calls? ›

While you will not be able to use most of the phone's functions, like social media apps, for that set amount of time, you can still make phone calls and use the camera. Also, while in Zen Mode, you can freely choose to turn a white noise on or off during the time period.

Can you make calls in Zen mode? ›

You can still make and receive calls in Zen mode.As long as you know the number, you can click emergency call and dial the number.

How much does Zen match game cost? ›

Start your Zen journey today! Here is the following subscription period available in our game: Golden Lotus Club offers a weekly subscription, you will be charged $9.99 per week.

How much does Mindful Powers cost? ›

Now completely free. New Unlock Lessons option in the IAP parent section.

How old do you have to be to use Zen? ›

There are only two requirements to apply for a ZEN Account: 1. be 18 years old or over, 2. be the resident in one of the countries specified here Page 3 3 / 11 When you apply to open an account, we will need to confirm your identity.

How many levels of Zen match are there? ›

More than a thousand levels of centering tile matching puzzle game to help you get in that flow state. Collectibles including different types of tiles, backgrounds, zen spaces and house plants... Inspire your daily life through a world of zen design.

How much is 2000 Zen? ›

20% Zen and Ship Sale!
ItemPriceDiscounted Price
2000 Zen$19.99$15.99
5300 Zen$49.99$39.99
11000 Zen$99.99$79.99
23000 Zen$199.99$159.99
2 more rows
May 4, 2021

What are the gold bars in Zen match? ›

Gold bars are often won by completing seasonal events. You can use the gold to purchase Extra Moves in levels, upgrade Fiends, or even unlock selected Fiends or Fiend Styles. You can win more keys by completing new levels and events.

How many sessions is mindfulness training? ›

The approach teaches mindfulness in eight weekly sessions that include yoga, body scans (lying down) and sitting and walking meditation. In-between sessions, participants use CDs to help with their our own daily mindfulness practice. The program incorporates a day-long meditation at the end.

How much does declutter the mind app cost? ›

Declutter The Mind is completely free to use.

Do you need a teacher for Zen? ›

While Zen practice can be done without benefit of a teacher, having a teacher is important, and, in the end, crucial if one is to realize the depth of Zen practice and make it completely one's own.

Do you need a PC for a Zen? ›

To use Zen you need a desktop computer or laptop and a webcam.

How much Zen per day? ›

A: Starting small (5 minutes a day) is a great way to get started, but it's also a great way to keep things going. It's hard to do a 30- or 60-minute habit for a month, but it's much easier to do 5 minutes a day for an entire month.

What are the 4 Zen principles? ›

Some main principles of Zen philosophy are the denial of the ego, the focus on interconnectedness in the universe, the recognition of attachment as a source of suffering, and the realization that human perception is faulty.

What is the main goal of Zen? ›

Zen is a school of Buddhism which emphasises the practice of meditation as the key ingredient to awakening ones inner nature, compassion and wisdom. The practice of meditation (Zen in Japanese) as a means of attaining enlightenment was introduced, as we have seen, by the Buddha himself.


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