Have you finished your vision board yet? Recited your daily mantras? Written in your gratitude journal? If the answer to these questions is “no” or “is this some kind of joke?”, well, you might be missing out. Because these are just some of the principles of manifesting – and as woo-woo as they might sound, subscribing to them could change your life.
The Extremely Online among you might already be familiar with the zeitgeisty term, which means to will aspirational thoughts into existence, as it’s been dominating TikTok and Instagram for the past year. Search “manifesting” on any social media platform and you’ll be inundated with quotes and aphorisms. You’ll probably find the odd video of someone doing a downward dog on the beach to a plinky plonky soundtrack while they tell you everything they like about themselves. Gwyneth Paltrow has advocated it on Goop. Oprah Winfrey has credited her entire career to it. Social media influencers swear it can make you rich.
But a lot of this is misleading. Because as easy as it would be to reduce manifesting to a Live Laugh Love hashtag, the practice itself is far more meaningful. And no, you can’t manifest a winning lottery ticket or an A* in your exams. Those who say you can simply don’t know a thing about manifesting.
Born out of the law of attraction principles – or the fundamental idea that energy has the power to sway our life paths – manifesting has its origins in 19th century America. But it became wellness du jour in 2006 with the publication of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, a self-help book that claimed positive thinking can change a person’s life. It was derided by critics at the time of its release, yet went on to sell more than 30 million copies. Both manifesting and the principles behind The Secret may sound pseudoscientific but when you break them down, they simply amount to positive and negative thinking. The former creates “high energy” – or “vibrations” – that can, in turn, mean you attract more positivity into your life. The latter creates “low energy” and can have the opposite effect. One of manifesting’s pioneers, author Roxie Nafousi, credits the practice for helping her recover from drug addiction and turn her life around.
“Four years ago, I was an addict with no career, no self-worth, no relationship and no purpose,” she tells me. Today, Nafousi is a bestselling author and successful self-development coach with a three-year-old son, Wolfe. “My life couldn’t be more different now, and it’s all because of manifesting,” she adds.
In her first book, Manifest: 7 Steps to Living Your Best Life, Nafousi lays out the seven steps to successfully manifesting your future. They are: be clear in your vision, remove fear and doubt, align your behaviour, overcome tests that are presented to you, embrace gratitude without caveats, turn envy into inspiration, and trust in the universe.
This is a practice that is as much about surrender as anything else
“Manifesting is a self-development practice, meaning it’s a way of living rather than something you ‘do’,” Nafousi explains. “For example, I live and breathe my seven steps. But there are rituals that can support the manifesting process. These include meditation, goal-setting, affirmations, and any daily practices that build self-worth and alignment.” As you can tell, manifesting goes beyond simply writing down a list of the things you want from life. Nafousi’s books (she just released a second one, Manifest: Dive Deeper) detail how you have to imagine what you want in as much detail as possible. Then, instead of simply willing it into action, you have to think about how it might make you feel to achieve it.
“It’s not magic, or just about wishful thinking,” adds Nafousi. “I debunk all those misconceptions about manifesting that give it a bad reputation.” She understands why this has come about, too. “There’s so much misinformation. If I didn’t understand the practice and I just listened to what people said about manifesting on TikTok, I’d probably be a sceptic too.”
One of manifestation’s key components – and something that people might not necessarily realise – is that it’s about healing. This is something Nafousi delves into in her second book. “Try not to rush or force things into place,” she explains. “This is a practice that is as much about surrender as anything else. If you try and bypass the healing process, it won’t work.”
The rise of manifesting today can, in part, be credited to the revival of spirituality among millennials and Gen-Z. In the absence of mainstream religious practices, you might assume that modern young people aren’t as spiritual as older generations. But research disproves this theory; in 2015, one study by the Pew Research Center found that millennials are less religious than older generations but just as spiritual.
Most of those surveyed (55 per cent) said they think about the meaning and purpose of life on a weekly basis. Roughly three-quarters (76 per cent) of millennials reported feeling a strong sense of gratitude or thankfulness at least weekly. Fifty-one per cent said they feel a deep sense of spiritual peace and wellbeing at least once a week.
This isn’t just apparent through manifestation, either. Look at the monumental – and slightly parodied – obsession that millennials and Generation Z have with astrology. There are now countless apps dedicated to the subject, relating it to every part of our lives from love to careers. The majority of dating apps even give users the opportunity to state their star sign on their profile. Ask someone for their star sign and you’ll probably also get their moon, their rising, and a full birth chart. One study from 2019 found that one-third of Gen Z decide who they date based on their star sign.
All this is relevant when you consider the rise of manifestation, which, like astrology, is rooted in the pursuit of some sort of deeper meaning to life. “Research has shown that millennials are more likely to be diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder,” says Chase Cassine, clinical psychotherapist and social worker. “Anxiety is rooted in the fear of uncertain situations, the future and of change, which causes a person to have a pessimistic perspective of life and makes it difficult to adjust.” For some, spirituality offers a solution, helping people to find a newfound sense of purpose and direction.
The key is to see beyond the TikToks and realise that manifesting is more than simply wishful thinking. Cassine tells me that it can be viewed as more of a therapeutic exercise, one founded on being still, present and focused – then visualising our future. “By committing ourselves to reaching this personal goal we’re already shifting our mindset, setting an intention and directing our actions in a goal-directed manner.”
When you break it down, that’s all manifesting is really about: figuring out what you want, and mentally committing to making it happen.