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August 2016 Newsletter

By now, I’m sure most of you would be familiar with the latest buzz to hit the mobile gaming world: Pokémon Go. Not only has it managed to engage the public like never before, but many users are also claiming that it is helping to improve their mental health. Players have taken to social media to share how it has helped them ease their depression and anxiety by getting them out of the house, encouraging social interaction, and even boosting their level of physical activity.

While it appears to be beneficial to some, it’s important to remind ourselves that the game was not designed with mental health in mind, and such claims may be premature despite people’s experiences. The game has only been available for a month and there is no hard evidence to say if it actually improves mental health.

Still, it’s hard to deny its appealing qualities and innovative methods of engaging players. In fact, it brings to mind a recent conference on technology and civic life, where I also spoke. Themes included technology as a double-edged sword and, as I discuss in my talk (featured below), the need to ‘step off the digital treadmill’ and treat our attention as a resource to be spent wisely.

There’s never been a better time to reclaim technology. While the latest gaming fad may serve the digital economy, let’s start to think about how we can use technology to serve and amplify our well-being, as well as our humanity.

—Dr. Tracy Dennis-Tiwary
Media Coverage & Events

Personal Democracy Forum 2016
Calming the Politics of Fear: Technology and the Anxious Brain

Last month, I spoke at the Personal Democracy Forum, the world’s leading conference exploring and analyzing technology's impact on politics, government, and society. I explained why we need to step off the digital mental treadmill, and how we could be using technology - instead of being used by technology - to rewire the anxious brain. You can watch my talk here, or read the written version here.
Personal Zen News

AT&T Top 24 Stress Busting Apps

Personal Zen was recently featured in AT&T's Top 24 Stress Busting Apps. Based on 20 years of brain training and anxiety-reduction research, it effectively boosts stress resilience and decreases anxiety when used only a few minutes a day, a few days a week. 

Available on the iTunes App Store, Personal Zen was also named  #3 of the top 10 health apps of 2014 by CNN Health, and has been featured in WSJ, Bloomberg TV, CBS, CNN, Lifehacker, and a host of other top news and health media outlets.

Coming Soon: Baby Zen for pregnant mothers!

In one of our four clinical trials of Personal Zen (with four more in progress), we show that using Personal Zen 10 minutes a day, a few days a week for a month improves mental and physical wellness in the expecting mother, and may boost positive birth outcomes in her infant. Baby Zen will address a huge, unmet health need given that stress is among the leading factors in birth defects and that stress during pregnancy increases risk for post-partum depression.

Psyche's Circuitry Blog

Keep Your Friends Close... :  Technology and the Politics of Fear

Speaking at the Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) 2016 was one of those paradigm-shifting conference experiences for me. Before PDF, I tended to hear technophilic, almost Pollyannaish narratives about how technology can make our lives- and our civic lives – better. I was clearly behind the times because I now see the narrative shifting and morphing into a much more challenging, questioning viewpoint that might be best described by the saying “keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.” Read more...
Project Highlight

Attention and Resilience Training (ART)

Challenge & Background:
Anxiety disorders are the most common and well-studied mental disorders, affecting 18% of adults and one in eight children in the U.S. While highly treatable, only one-third of those suffering from this disorder receive treatment. Cost, lack of access to treatment and timeliness are the most common barriers to receiving adequate care.
What we hope to find out:
To address this issue, my research team at the Emotion Regulation Lab are currently examining the effect of a low-cost treatment - Attention and Resilience Training (ART) - on reducing anxiety and stress symptoms in adults. The study is based on attention bias modification training, which seeks to modify the tendency to focus on negative stimuli to more positive stimuli. For more details on this study, click here.
About Tracy
Dr. Tracy Dennis-Tiwary is a Professor of Psychology at Hunter College of the City University of New York, the Director of the Emotion Regulation Lab, and the Co-Director of the Hunter College Stress, Anxiety, and Resilience Research Center. She is also the Founder of the mobile app, Personal Zen, a scientifically-validated mobile app for reducing stress and anxiety.

Tracy’s mission is to understand the fundamental role of emotions in mental health, and to transform breakthrough science into engaging digital tools that elevate mental wellness and that bridge the gap between mental health needs and solutions. More about Tracy here.
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Copyright © 2016 Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, All rights reserved.

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