Home Mind & Brain What Is “Manifesting” – And Does It Really Work?

What Is “Manifesting” – And Does It Really Work?

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Manifesting, a concept rooted in the law of attraction, has gained immense popularity in recent years. It’s often described as the ability to bring something tangible into your life through attraction and belief. While it sounds mystical, there’s a psychological basis to this phenomenon.

Manifesting is more than just wishful thinking; it’s about creating a mindset that fosters action and positivity. This process involves envisioning a desired outcome, believing in the possibility of its attainment, and aligning one’s actions towards achieving it. Psychologically, this aligns with the principles of goal-setting and the power of positive thinking, which have been shown to impact individual motivation and behaviour.

By focusing their thoughts and energy on a specific goal, individuals may become more attuned to opportunities and actions that can make the goal a reality. While manifesting may seem to tread the line between reality and wishful thinking, it actually finds its roots in established psychological practices that emphasise the power of mindset in shaping our experiences and outcomes.

The basics of manifesting

Manifesting is often associated with the New Age movement and the belief that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, one can bring positive or negative experiences into their life. This idea is not new; it’s been a part of various philosophical and religious traditions for centuries, albeit under different names and contexts.

The concept gained mainstream attention with the release of The Secret, a book and film that introduced the law of attraction to a broader audience. The law of attraction suggests that people can influence their reality through their thoughts and emotions. While this might sound like a simple concept, it intersects with various psychological theories and practices.

The interplay between the law of attraction and psychology is evident in the way thoughts and emotions are understood to shape our reality. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, for instance, teaches that altering our thought patterns can lead to changes in feelings and behaviours, a principle echoing the law of attraction’s focus on the power of thought.

This similarity suggests that manifesting might not be a mystical process but rather a psychological one, where the focus and energy directed towards a desired outcome can catalyse real-world results. The concept of manifesting aligns with the psychological understanding of motivation and goal-setting. Setting a clear intention and maintaining a positive outlook can create a self-reinforcing cycle where positive thoughts lead to proactive behaviours, which in turn bring about positive outcomes. This cycle is at the heart of manifesting, demonstrating its potential as a tool for personal and psychological growth.

The psychological perspective

From a psychological standpoint, manifesting can be linked to several well-established concepts. One of these is the self-fulfilling prophecy, a belief that leads to its own fulfilment due to the behaviour it generates. For example, if you believe you’re going to succeed in a job interview, this belief might influence your behaviour in a way that increases your chances of success.

Another related concept is the placebo effect, where a person experiences a real change in their health after taking a treatment with no therapeutic value, simply because they believe it will work. Similarly, the act of manifesting can create a mindset that leads to tangible changes in a person’s life.

Confirmation bias also plays a role. This is the tendency to search for, interpret, and remember information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions. If you’re focused on manifesting a specific goal, you’re more likely to notice and pursue opportunities that align with that goal.

The psychological principles underpinning manifesting extend to the idea of ‘priming’, where exposure to certain stimuli influences a person’s response to subsequent stimuli. In the context of manifesting, continuously focusing on a goal or desire primes the individual to recognise and seize relevant opportunities, a phenomenon backed by psychological research.

Manifesting relates to the concept of “growth mindset”, coined by psychologist Carol Dweck. A growth mindset, the belief in one’s ability to grow and improve, is fundamental to manifesting, as it involves a persistent belief in the possibility of achieving one’s goals despite obstacles. This mindset encourages resilience and adaptability, traits crucial for turning aspirations into reality.

The psychological concept of “visualisation”, often used by athletes and performers, is a key component of manifesting. By vividly imagining achieving a goal, individuals may enhance their motivation and ability to enact the behaviours necessary to realise that goal, demonstrating the intertwined nature of manifesting and established psychological practices.

Manifesting and mental health

Manifesting can have both positive and negative effects on mental health. On the positive side, it encourages individuals to focus on their goals and maintain a positive outlook. This can lead to increased motivation, better stress management, and overall improved mental well-being.

But there’s a potential downside. If individuals attribute all successes and failures to their ability to manifest, they may overlook other factors that contribute to their circumstances. This can lead to a sense of guilt or inadequacy when things don’t go as planned.

Excessive focus on manifesting can lead to neglecting the practical steps and hard work necessary to achieve goals. It’s important to maintain a balance between positive thinking and practical action.

The practice of manifesting, while encouraging optimism, can sometimes create unrealistic expectations. When individuals invest heavily in the belief that their thoughts alone can control outcomes, they may become disillusioned if results don’t materialise as expected. This can lead to a cycle of negative thinking, where repeated disappointments impact self-esteem and general mental health.

The emphasis on internal thought processes in manifesting can inadvertently minimise the importance of external factors such as societal structures, random events, or the actions of others, which also play significant roles in shaping outcomes. It is therefore essential for individuals engaging in manifesting to understand the limits of this practice. Recognising that positive thinking can be a powerful tool, it operates within a broader context of external variables and practical effort is key to maintaining psychological balance and well-being.

Research on manifesting

Several studies have explored the effects of positive thinking and the law of attraction. A study published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science found that visualising the best possible outcomes for various aspects of life led to increased feelings of hope and well-being.

Another study, published in the journal Clinical Psychology Review, indicated that positive visualisation could sometimes reduce the likelihood of achieving goals. It showed that when individuals spent time vividly imagining their desired outcomes, they felt as though they had already achieved these outcomes, which reduced their motivation to take real-world actions.

These studies highlight the complex relationship between our thoughts, emotions, and actions. They suggest that while positive thinking and manifesting can be beneficial, they need to be grounded in realistic expectations and combined with practical steps towards achieving goals.


Manifesting is a multifaceted concept with roots in psychology, philosophy, and spirituality. While it encourages positive thinking and focusing on goals, it’s essential to understand its limitations and potential psychological impacts. Incorporating manifesting into one’s life can be a powerful tool, but it should be balanced with practical actions and realistic expectations.

Understanding manifesting requires acknowledging its complexity, as it intertwines aspiration with reality. It’s not just about wishing for an outcome but also about aligning one’s actions and mindset towards achieving that outcome. This alignment necessitates a grounded approach where individuals recognise the role of hard work and perseverance alongside positive thinking.

The practice of manifesting should be seen as a complement to, rather than a replacement for, traditional methods of achieving goals, such as planning, education, and skill development.

It’s important to approach manifesting with a sense of self-compassion and understanding, recognising that not all outcomes are within one’s control and that failure is not a reflection of one’s worth or capabilities. This balanced approach can help ensure that manifesting serves as a positive influence on one’s life rather than a source of undue stress or unrealistic expectations.

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.


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