Society

Thanks, I manifested it 

The psychology behind the TikTok phenomenon 

In 2020, Sarah O’Neill found herself scrolling through TikTok one night and came across multiple videos of people “manifesting.” Users on TikTok were sharing tips on how people can fall into alignment—create a meaningful life based on their unique purpose, attract personal desires and live abundantly. Creators were claiming that people could manifest pretty much anything they could dream of—a relationship, good grades, financial and career success. 

Curious and intrigued, O’Neill decided to do some of her own research on manifesting and began to incorporate some of the practices that were being promoted on social media into her daily life. She bought a journal and started to write down all the goals she had for herself and the ways she was going to achieve them, along with creating a mood board. 

By the end of 2021, O’Neill says she manifested her Instagram account’s success by gaining over 10,000 followers. 

“I think manifesting is 50 per cent putting it out into the universe, saying your affirmations and visualizing goals,” she says. “The other half of it is putting in your own work and taking steps toward that goal.” 

See it to believe it

“For me, visual manifestation really works,” says O’Neill.  “So, creating mood boards and just looking at the thing every day can help me become motivated to do it.” 

Sam Maglio, associate professor of marketing and psychology at the University of Toronto, says that having a picture of something that you wish for in the future, such as a briefcase of money, may serve as a daily reminder and influence behaviours for achieving that goal. 

As well, visualization methods help bring the future closer to the present. “Colleagues and I found that when people believe that the present ends sooner, they are more inclined to make future-oriented decisions,” he says. 

A popular manifestation method that was circulating on TikTok was called the “369 method.” According to an article in Cosmopolitan, this method consists of the individual writing down what they are trying to manifest three times in the morning, repeating it in the afternoon six times and in the evening writing it down again nine times. Another similar method of manifestation is called the five by 55 technique which involves writing down a certain goal or dream 55 times for five days in a row. 

Maglio says that this repetition of a goal or intent is known in psychology as “rehearsal.” “It’s an attempt to maintain information longer in the memory,” he says. 

O’Neill says that repeating positive affirmations helped to manifest her confidence. 

“Catching my negative thoughts and consciously flipping them around has really helped me,” she says. “Even if I didn’t believe it at the time, constantly telling myself that my hair looks great or that I love my body for all that it does, made me start to perceive myself in a different way and eventually believe in what I was telling myself.” 

Being mindful 

Although manifestation is centred around attraction and cultivating more positive thinking, it should not be confused with toxic positivity which dismisses negative emotions and may make some people feel pressured to feel happy all of the time. O’Neill acknowledges that not every day is going to be ideal. 

“I feel like it’s normal to have bad days,” says O’Neill. “I think it’s important that when you’re feeling like that to spend time with yourself and listen to podcasts, meditate, write down your thoughts and accept your emotions because if you just put them away I think that’s when you start to dig yourself into a hole,” she says. 

It may seem counterintuitive, but practicing gratitude is very common and helpful to a lot of people when it comes to manifesting their future. Gratitude has been shown to help people cultivate an optimistic outlook. 

“If you come up with at least five things a day that you’re grateful for, your mind is going to start actively looking for things to be grateful for,” says O’Neill. “It becomes a part of your routine after that.” 

Being thankful for the present moment contributes to a sense of coherence, which is how confident a person feels about potential life outcomes. According to an article by Headspace, practicing mindfulness helps to increase focus, productivity and problem-solving skills, which are useful tools for taking steps towards a fulfilling future. 

Manifestation may not be as magical as it appears online. However, applying manifestation techniques in daily life can be a powerful way for someone to achieve their personal goals. 

About the author

Amy is a former reporter for Youth Mind. She is passionate about oat milk lattes, any film featuring Adam Driver, and tending to her tiny indoor Basil garden.

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