I came across this on lifehacker.com today and I find it pretty fascinating.
Psychologists have developed an app for the iPhone that is a simple game, designed to reduce anxiety. Their preliminary studies show that this game can reduce levels of anxiety in 25 minutes.
How does it work? The game is simple. There are two faces: one happy and one grumpy. The point of the game is to repeatedly choose the happy face each time it pops up on the screen.
The theory behind this is that by training your mind to see and focus on the happy face, you are also training it not to focus on the angry, mean face. The scientific name for this theory is Attention-bias Modification Theory.
I think it’s a great idea. In my experience with anxiety, so much of it has to do with where I place my attention. If I place my attention on the “angry faces” within my mind, then I’ll feel anxiety. If I can place my awareness on the “happy or neutral faces” in my mind, then I can calm my anxiety.
I like this game because what the developers are trying to show is that anxiety is related to attention. Where you focus your attention will influence you levels of anxiety. This is why mindfulness is such a powerful practice for reducing anxiety.
By practicing mindfulness, you become aware of the thoughts that you are choosing. You also become aware of the physical sensations of anxiety, which can be a good indication that you might want to evaluate the thoughts that you are choosing.
I downloaded the app and I played it for about seven minutes. It was simple and fun. It was interesting to notice the difference I felt inside myself by training myself (albeit briefly) to focus on the happier face.
Check it out: Personal Zen.