Feeling stressed? Take a digital mental health vitamin

Research shows the power of AI to develop resilience to day-to-day stressors 

A new AI powered app called Joyi can improve users’ mood by increasing positive emotions and decreasing negative ones. 

The app, created by Colorful Zone, a new company at Velocity, the University of Waterloo’s start-up incubator, has shown promising results that indicate significant improvements in users’ mood when they use it. The research was conducted by Seneca Polytechnic and presented at the U.S.-based Society for Neuroscience’s conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

"Most applications in mental wellness increase positive emotions, making you feel inspired, motivated, or excited. Joyi increases positive emotions, but it also decreases negative ones," said Negar Yaghoobi, CEO and co-founder of Colorful Zone. "We see it as a digital vitamin for your mental health." 

Joyi is a game-like app with bite-sized psychology lessons aimed at developing skills for users to improve resilience to day-to-day stressors. 

Just as a mental health professional would tailor a treatment plan to each patient, the app’s artificial intelligence component personalizes the content for each user, enhancing its effectiveness. 

"We can understand users’ vulnerabilities, susceptibilities, and needs so that each individual can realize sustainable happiness - whatever that means for them," said Rastin Rassoli, co-founder and head of product. "Each person needs a unique set of skills, and through interactions with the app, we gather information to personalize the psychoeducational content." 

Yaghoobi explains that Joyi is designed for users who experience high stress and who may not meet psychiatric thresholds for diagnoses that would prompt comprehensive healthcare treatment. Ultimately, it’s a preventative tool and not a mental health treatment. 

"There are many who seek psychological help but are not referred to psychiatrists or psychologists because their stress is not diagnosable," Yaghoobi said. "But these are people who need preventative tools because they are vulnerable to mental disorders. We want to help them reduce stress and anxiety in the short term and teach them how to be more resilient in the long term." 

Rassoli, a University of Waterloo student studying computer science and psychology, specializes in bridging these two disciplines. 

After collaborating with Velocity on campus, Colorful Zone joined the incubator earlier this year. 

"Colorful Zone has been able to use all of Velocity’s resources, both on campus and in the incubator, as well as connecting with the university’s wellness services," Rassoli added. "At Velocity, I’ve met other students and alumni who are founders or aspiring founders. There’s incredible value in connecting with this community." 

About Velocity  

Velocity accelerates entrepreneurs’ growth from idea to early-stage start-up and beyond. These founders have access to unmatched resources, collaboration space, funding, and an expansive and experienced network made possible only by the University of Waterloo - Canada’s top university for founders. In the 15 years since its inception as a University of Waterloo residence, more than 400 Velocity companies have netted more than US$26 billion in enterprise value.