It’s the self-care buzzword of the moment and advocates say it can fast track your goals, whether that's getting engaged or buying the dream house. How do you it – and is it any more than wishful thinking? Our experts weigh in
“Pretty much everything in my life I thank manifesting for,” says Roxie Nafousi, a self-development coach and author of Manifest: 7 steps to living your best life . If you thought manifesting was a niche subject, Nafousi's book sales say otherwise; published in January, it's already The Sunday Times best-seller list. The practice of manifesting, or turning your thoughts and goals into a reality, is resonating deeply with us right now. Living in a pandemic has thrown the spotlight on what's really important to us.
Google has reported a steady increase in searches for ‘manifestation’ since the pandemic began, Pinterest has seen searches for ‘manifestation techniques’ rise by 105 per cent, while over on Instagram and Tiktok the term ‘manifestation’ has been tagged more than 6.5 million and 13 billion times respectively. Nafousi's book on manifesting isn't the only one. On Amazon alone, there are more than 20,000 results for books on everything from manifesting money to manifesting love.
The spike in interest can also be traced to certain celebrities, who seemingly credit their success to the visualisation technique. Oprah has spoken about how, by repeatedly visualising herself as an actress, she believes it helped her bag a role in Steven Spielberg’s The Colour Purple. Rapper Drake claims that he only owns his multi-million dollar mansion in LA because he had saved the house as his desktop picture years before. A little closer to home, the host of this year’s Brit Awards, comedian Mo Gilligan, seemingly manifested the gig by tweeting back in 2011, “I need to host the #MOBO’s or #TheBritAwards *Fingers Crossed*’. See – dreams (and Tweets) do come true…
However, manifesting is more than just getting what you wish for. It aligns more closely with the idea that 'seeing is believing'. Although it’s been labelled by many as a millennial phenomenon, or ‘woo-woo’, manifestation stems from the time-honoured notion that the universe has laws of attraction and that we create our own reality. “All that we are is a result of what we have thought,” is a phrase attributed to Buddha himself.
Fast-forward to the 19th century though and that’s where the idea of the Law of Attraction, or manifestation, really began to enter the public consciousness. It's a pseudoscience based on the belief that positive or negative thoughts bring positive or negative experiences into our lives. Helena Blavatsky, a 19th-century spiritual theorist was among the first to popularise the idea that we have an ability to shape our reality by thinking, or visualising, ourselves in a certain way, in her work The Secret Doctrine. The idea was backed up by 20th-century writers Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich, 1937) and Louise Hay (You Can Heal Your Life, 1984).
You might remember The Secret , written in 2006 by Australian TV producer Rhonda Byrne. The self-help book, bought by 30 million people across the globe, encouraged us to visualise our goals in order to attract what we want. I have a friend who’s so convinced by the book’s message that she walks around visualising herself finding money. She claims that she often stumble across tenners this way, but I’m not sure it’s a failsafe way of becoming financially secure.
After the last two years of lockdown restrictions and uncertainty, is it any wonder that manifesting is once again in the limelight? Roxy Marrone (yes, another Roxie/Roxy) runs manifesting workshops and is the daughter of Margo Marrone, shaman and founder of the Organic Pharmacy . She’s also co-founder of House of Roxy a jewellery brand that draws on the power of crystals, rituals and spells. Marrone believes that it makes perfect sense that during times of precariousness we turn to practices that can help us feel more in control of our lives. “After Covid, people needed something to look forward to and guide them into living a better life,” she says.
Over at Grey Wolfe , a holistic wellness space in west London, founders Sarah Jones and Sinéad Johnson offer 'Grey Wolf Method' one-one-one manifesting therapy sessions. They agree that in today’s world, manifesting is about asserting control over your future. “Manifesting puts our guests in the driver's seat of their lives,” they say about their treatments where guests are guided by a therapist to “explore new ideas and understand their personal past and their intentions, which creates a world of manifestation that they desire.”
So, now that we’ve established that manifestation isn’t going anywhere, we decided to delve a little deeper. We spoke to experts including neuroscientists and CBT coaches and wellness industry insiders to investigate how we can manifest something into reality and which manifesting methods actually work.
What is manifesting?
The theory behind manifesting is fairly simple, explains Nafousi, “Manifesting is the ability to use the power of your mind to change and create the reality that you experience,” she says.
Essentially, it’s about focusing on your goals and putting in the work to achieve them. Sadly, that means that there’s no magic manifestation moment when everything falls into place; it’s not a case of closing your eyes and hoping that you win the lottery. “It’s a self-development practice to live by that will empower you to be the best version of yourself and live the best life that you can,” says Nafousi.
But is it any different from simply wishing for something? Yes says Magdalena Bak-Maier, a neuroscientist and the founder of Make Time Count , a productivity improving method, “Wishing often carries a limiting belief, whereas manifesting is thinking about something for longer, making it more vivid and thus giving more cues to the brain to engage desire and trigger action in line with it.
“Manifesting simply means bringing something into the realm of conscious awareness,” says Bak-Maier. So, if it’s that simple, is there any science to support it? Well, no, there aren't any actual studies to prove it works, she says. However, she notes that “there is plenty of science to support what manifesting actually involves including positive thinking and action, habitual behaviour, affirmations, and goal setting.”
Does manifesting work?
In 2021, Nafousi put "This Morning appearance" and "book written and edited" on her vision board (one of the favourite tools of manifesting experts, alongside journalling). Did it work?
“A week before Christmas, I got confirmation that I’d be going on the show to talk about my book which was ready for release,” she reveals.
Marrone believes it worked for her too. “I was manifesting a feature piece about me a while ago in a huge publication that had never really talked about manifesting or spiritual wellness brands like mine,” she says, “and then they asked me to do it and it was real moment of something I had manifested coming true.”
Of course, we’re not saying that manifesting is going to make all of your dreams come true. There’s work involved and the act of manifesting could kind of be looked at as a motivator. “If you wake up in the morning and you know, 'I want to be promoted in six months’ time', for example, you’re so much more likely to get up early and put your best foot forward at work,” explains Nafousi.
Essentially manifesting is about wanting something enough that you start taking the steps towards making it happen, says Bak-Maier. “It’s healthy goal setting where we begin to dream and imagine a favourable reality,” she says. Once something has our attention, we are more likely to act in a way that will bring us closer to it.
Bak-Maier gives the example of losing weight. “You will not be able to manifest a thin body, but you will manifest a fit body if your vision makes you make healthier choices consistently.”
One thing I noticed that came up time and time again when speaking to the experts was the idea that limiting beliefs, or negative thoughts, are a major obstacle to manifesting what you want.
“If you don't truly believe that you are capable of it, then it won't happen,” explains Marrone. “You have to let go of control and trust the journey you’re on.”
If going on a journey of self-discovery sounds a little out there for you, then think of it in terms of this simple equation. Think positively and you’ll attract positive things, think negatively and you’re less likely to attract the things you want. This is a big part of the Grey Wolfe Method where treatment includes a guided visualisation to quieten limiting voices so that you can discover what you truly want.
CBT therapist Alexandra Taylor, founder of Aegle Mind , notes that often limiting beliefs can be so deeply ingrained within us, they can be anything from thinking we’re not good enough to get that promotion, or too quiet to make that public speech, that you may require help from a professional to work through them.
Manifesting methods and techniques
How you manifest will be specific to you but the key is in visualising what you want to happen. In fact, Taylor suggests going beyond simple visualisation to creating the feeling that it's already happened. So, if you’re journaling as a way of manifesting, then use the present tense as if it's already happened, ‘I’m so grateful for my job that pays me £XXX and allows me to do XYZ’, for example.
Journaling is perhaps the most accessible manifestation method and there are now umpteen positivity diaries and planners to help you do this. But a simple pen and paper or Notes app will do. It’s an easy way of holding yourself accountable for your goals, seeing how far you’ve come and turning manifesting into a daily ritual. “It is the most powerful manifesting tool in my opinion,” says Nafousi, “because it retrains our brain to focus on the good, to sink into a feeling of appreciation and to keep our vibe high, which will help us to attract abundance back to us effortlessly.”
Once you’ve set your goals and visions then it’s about taking the steps to get closer towards them. “It’s about working hard,” says Nafousi, “stepping outside of your comfort zone and applying yourself are all essential components for manifesting.” You can’t just sit back and wait for the magic to happen, says Taylor, “think about what steps you can take to reach your goals yourself, then build them into your routine.
For example, if you want to make a major career change, start networking with people in your new field and practice for a job interview,” advises Taylor.
If you want to get out the sage and the crystals then that’s fine too. In fact, involving your senses as well as your mind, by lighting a candle for example, can help make the experience a more 'conscious' one and as Bak-Maier says, manifesting is all about putting a subconscious desire at the front of your mind.
Marrone swears by lighting a sage 'smudging stick' for clearing away negative energy and for making room for your positive manifestations. Marrone and her mum have an entire manifesting ritual that involves cleansing (with sage, obvs), breathwork, letting go of the past, candles work, writing your manifestations and giving gratitude for what you’re about to receive. There's even a House of Roxy Manifestation kit, £85 to get you started. “Just make sure to repeat the manifestations and mantras outside of the ritual,” advises Maronne.
Want to manifest your dreams into reality? Join our IRL manifesting workshop at The Organic Pharmacy on the 16th of March. Click here to find out more!
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