Manifestation: Magic or Motivation

Taylor Riley, Lifestyles Editor

   From going viral on social media platforms to Ariana Grande writing a song about it, manifestation took the world by storm during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a time when so much of life felt out of control, many found it comforting to subscribe to a belief system where the power over your life is ultimately yours to wield. But does the theory hold any scientific credibility? Or is it, as Grande sings, “just like magic”? 

   Manifestation is rooted in the law of attraction, a principle that posits positive thoughts attract positive outcomes while negative thoughts attract negative outcomes. Many understand manifestation as attempting to will your desires into existence by thinking or writing about them. Sophomore Sallee Rosen, who discovered manifestation via the internet, uses it as a tool for mental health. She believes that it does not have a singular definition or purpose, but can mean different things to different people.

   “It can be a way spiritually to actually manifest things, it can be a way to organize your thoughts, it can be a way to just set things in motion,” Rosen said. “It can be many things, whatever the person pretty much believes.”

  However, many critique manifestation for placing value on thoughts rather than actions. Psychology teacher Donna Walker said that wishing for something to happen is not the same as putting work towards making that happen. 

  “People who subscribe to [manifestation] may also believe they’re able to cause a change in the universe that isn’t controllable by themselves,” Walker said. “So for example, if I manifest that I get accepted into the college I want, that’s really not something that is within your control.”

   While manifestation is not backed up by science and has no guarantee of success, there is a proven correlation between positive thinking and less stress. According to a study titled “The power of positive thinking: Pathological worry is reduced by thought replacement in Generalized Anxiety Disorder,” positive thinking decreases stress and anxiety, even if the positive thoughts are unrelated to a source of worry. So although users of manifestation are not proven to be able to change something that’s out of their control, they can lower stress levels through positive thinking.

   However, is achieving what they’ve manifested a result of lowered stress levels due to positive thinking? Or is there truly a supernatural element at work? Either way, manifestation has helped Rosen decrease her anxiety by helping her focus on the positives. 

   “If I’m in a really anxious mode or if I’m having a panic attack, I can think to myself, okay, so what is happening right now?” Rosen said. “What’s stressing me out? What do I want to be better? And I can focus on that stuff.”

   Rosen represents a healthy use of manifestation, however some take the practice too far. At its core, manifestation is about positive thinking, but forcing yourself to be happy or positive when you are actually hurting is unhealthy. This is called “toxic positivity,” which applies to repression of negative emotions in order to appear happy when you aren’t. Dee Starling, physical education teacher, agrees that toxic positivity doesn’t lead to genuine happiness. 

   “Is there a correlation between positivity and happiness?” Starling said. “I think there can be, but I feel like it has to be genuine positivity. Because I feel like there are a lot of people that have positive attitudes, but really on the inside, they’re hurting or they’re sad, or that they try to portray a positive attitude.” 

   Many manifestation users simplify the concept to pushing away all negative emotions in order to be positive, which is why it can be unhealthy. But as Rosen said, it can just be a lens to positively view the world and work on improving yourself. Either way, the positive thinking that is central to manifestation is proven to lower stress, so Ariana Grande’s “I get everything I want ‘cause I attract it” attitude might just be worth a try.