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Can You Really Attract the Things You Want via Manifestation?

Here's What to Know About the Technique People Are Obsessing Over.


When you hear the word “manifestation,” it may conjure up images of the book The Secret or people cutting out pictures from magazines and glueing them to a poster board in an effort to attract the things they want. The age-old technique of manifestation is often thought of as a woo-woo one, but at the same time, it hasn’t gone anywhere. In fact, it’s having a serious moment right now.

Meha Agrawal, founder and CEO of the positive psychology based self-care company Silk + Sonder, says her customers have been using manifestation quite a bit recently. “Right now, life feels so uncertain, so overwhelming, so scary,” she says. “It helps to picture a more ideal state. If you’ve lost your job, we recommend that you imagine what your ideal job looks like. Naturally, that will spur ideas on actions to take to begin that more intentional job search. If you’re tight for money, we recommend that you imagine what wealth looks like for you—that way, you’ll naturally pay attention to the small ways you can diversify sources of revenue or save money.”

We know manifestation is a crutch people rely on, but what is it, exactly? And does it actually work? Here’s what experts have to say.

What is manifestation?

According to clinical psychologist and positive psychology expert Carla Manly, manifestation is “the act or process of taking something hoped for and bringing it to life. In other words, manifestation is the art of bring a dream or goal into a state of being real.”

“After you’ve done the introspective work of figuring out what you want, you remove blockages to whatever is desired. This can include clearing out negative thoughts, negative emotional energy, or clearing the way forward through forgiveness,” Manly says. “The third step is geared toward moving into action.  This step often first involves utilizing tools such as vision boards, mantras, meditation, journaling, group support, and energy streaming to energize the desired goal.”

Last but not least, you take action that’s oriented toward that goal. “This step is vital in that it empowers the individual as a result of taking a positive, goal-oriented action rather than simply leaving the manifestation up to fate.”

The science behind manifestation

This is where things get a little tricky. Manifestation is an abstract concept, and a lot of it involves willing something to happen. So, is there any concrete evidence that it works?

Licensed therapist Tanya Peterson confirms that the concept of manifestation is more “fluff” than science—but that the practice can lead to some real change in your beliefs about yourself, which can give you the courage to more action.

“This is where concepts from positive psychology come into play, particularly optimism, resilience, and character strengths,” she explains. “When you can accept and acknowledge that life has negatives and setbacks, identify your own strengths and positive character traits, and use your strengths every day to take steps toward your goals, you position yourself to manifest your deepest dreams and desires. Because you know that life also is full of positives and triumphs, you keep going despite obstacles and setbacks. This is the true power and meaning of manifestation.“

The action step of it, or “taking steps toward your goals,” may be the most important piece of Peterson’s explanation: Manifestation can empower people to work toward the thing they desire most.

And even if you don’t end up getting that thing you’ve been manifesting, the very action of manifestation may help to reduce anxiety, according to life strategist and author, Andrea Marcellus. 

“Manifestation is about activating the frontal lobe of your brain, where curiosity and possibility exist either through meditation or action. Often, and especially during times like these, our lives become reactionary to an overstimulated amygdala—the fear and anxiety center in your brain,” she says.

When the amygdala sends out adrenaline and cortisol, the body and mind go into a protective state. By taking the time to focus on manifestation—an inherently positive activity—the front part of your brain quiets the amygdala and allows you to be more focused, centered, and productive. “Manifesting isn’t ‘wishing’ for good things to happen,” says Marcellus. “Manifesting is the practice of training your brain to stay in a positive space so that good things can happen.”

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