I’ll admit it – whenever I heard someone talk about manifesting something in their life, I’ve rolled my eyes. Manifesting? Huh? What does that even mean? I’ve always kinda thought of manifesting as something synonymous with wishful thinking, dripping in privilege.
It all just seemed too good to be true, you know? Like if wishing something into reality actually worked, wouldn’t we all be drinking Mai Tais on the beach all day? Just me?
Turns out, my assumptions about what it means to manifest something weren’t exactly accurate. In other words, I was completely wrong about manifesting.
Well, kinda wrong.
Manifesting is all the rage right now, and TikTok has the trending hashtags to prove it, but what in the world is it? And does it actually work?
Manifesting isn’t just The Secret.
Manifestation often conjures woo-woo images a la The Secret – the 2006 book by Australian tv producer Rhonda Byrne – which focused on the law of attraction. Basically The Secret said that if you think positively, then positive things will happen to you.
Umm … can we say toxic positivity?
The book’s premise falls apart for one simple reason: bad stuff sometimes happens for no reason. That’s it.
But manifesting is actually far more complex than the law of attraction in The Secret. That’s part of it, sure, but just one tiny part.
According to In Style, in addition to the law of attraction, there are 11 other laws about how the universe works. For instance, the law of action says that if you take action pertaining to what you want to manifest, it’ll happen sooner. Amazing how that works, huh?
Manifesting is ultimately a spiritual practice.
Manifesting experts say that manifesting and other spiritual practices, such as crystals or meditation, go hand in hand. “They both have a way of connecting us with ourselves,” Ellen Bowles and Imani Quinn, intuitives and founders of The Woke Mystix, told In Style.
Manifesting likes numbers and science. (Kind of.)
Vox reports that there are special numbers associated with manifesting. For instance, 1111 and 444 are “angel numbers.” There are also special sound frequencies to be used for manifesting certain desires. If you’re looking for love, try 528 hertz – the love frequency.
But don’t confuse manifestation with science. In fact, taken too far, like many New Age-y spiritual practices, manifestation can turn into dangerous pseudoscience, and toxic positivity that can harm your physical and mental health. While positive thinking might help you get through chemo, manifesting is no replacement for the chemo itself. Bottom line: manifesting is a supplement to seeing medical professionals and practicing good common sense, not a substitution for it.
There isn’t one way to practice manifesting.
One common manifestation practice is “scripting.” According to Vox, scripting means writing down your desire and following it with “all this manifests and better” – you know, just in case the universe is feeling extra generous. Some manifesters say scripting means you should write down your desire 33 times for three days.
Setting intentions is one way to practice manifesting. “Setting intentions can be done with the new moon; it’s the perfect time to plant new seeds,” Bowles and Quinn told In Style.
Some other manifesting techniques include:
- 3-6-9 method. This is where you write down your desire three times in the morning, six times in the afternoon, and nine times at night for 33 or 45 days.
- Vision Board. Like a scrapbook for your desires and goals, a vision board includes images of what you wish to bring into your life.
- Intention Journaling. This is a bit more action-focused than scripting, but the general concept is the same. Essentially you write down your intentions for the day/week/month. According to Thrive Global, “If using it once a month, you might choose to make it a ritual by lining it up with the new moon. The energy of the moon at this time is said to be ideal for planting seeds of intent.”
- Manifestation affirmations. Think Stuart Smalley (“I’m good enough, I am smart enough, and doggone it, people like me”), but in a New Age-y kinda of way. Thrive Global suggests affirmations like ““I am continually learning, growing, and evolving,” or “I open my heart to the world with trust and faith.”
- Gratitude journaling. A key part of manifesting is gratefully receiving what the universe brings into your life, so some experts recommend combining a gratitude journal with other manifesting practices.
There several more techniques, each at varying levels on the woo-woo scale, so if something feels a little to “out there” for you, start with something more straight-forward or comfortable to you.
So … does manifesting actually work?
Some psychologists say, no, it doesn’t work, but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that says otherwise. That job promotion that came your way? Might be manifesting, or it could be the result of years of hard work that your boss finally noticed. Met a new love interest? Maybe it’s because you hit that love frequency just right, or maybe it was because you signed up for Match.com. And that good deal you got on a new car? Maybe it was all the scripting you did, or maybe it was because you spent hours scouring in the internet for the right vehicle. Who knows? And ultimately, what does it really matter?
Like any spiritual practice, it’s about how the activity changes you, not whether it changes the outside world. Manifesting is about intention, and in setting that intention, in thinking about what you want with purpose, you are undoubtedly changing yourself and the way you move through the world.
Instead of relying solely on manifesting, NYU psychology professor Gabriele Oettingen recommends something called mental contrasting. Rather than focusing only on your desires, think about the obstacles standing in your way as well.
“Once you understand what the obstacle is, you can then find a way to overcome the obstacle,” Oettingen told Vox. “Or, if the obstacle is insurmountable, then you can adjust your wish, postpone it, or actively let it go. You’ll have a good conscience because you know it’s just not possible and you can better invest your energy in a different, more promising project.”
I have no idea if manifesting really works, but after learning more about it, I’ve got to admit, I’m intrigued. I’ve been feeling a bit stuck lately, with lots of transitions coming at me fast and hard. Maybe I’ll be able to manifest a little clarity and calmness into my life. And then a new car and a fantastic job. And if that works, maybe I’ll try manifesting world peace and an end to Covid. Stay tuned.
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