The rise of TikTok manifestation tutorials. Can you really will your dreams into existence?

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 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

In 2006, author Rhonda Byrne shared her self-help secret with the world, suggesting anyone could change their life in dramatic ways by sending “positive frequencies” into the universe and willing things into existence. Though scant on scientific evidence, Byrne’s claims were endorsed by influential figures like Oprah, and her book The Secret sold over 30 million copies.

Now, 15 years on, the so-called law of attraction is having an online revival - the hashtag #manifestation currently has over nine billion views on TikTok, with creators posting special techniques that promise to turn your deepest internal wishes into a physical reality.

Whether you want to become a millionaire, visit your soulmate in their dreams or manifest a text from your crush, there’s a TikTok ritual for that. Though the exact directions vary from guru to guru, one consistent factor is the use of personal affirmations, a set of sentences you must apparently repeat so the universe knows exactly what you want.

Jay first began experimenting with manifestation techniques aged 20 in 2006, after reading The Secret. She spent weeks trying to manifest a yellow rose with pink on it and had all but given up until an identical flower washed up on the beach in front of her. “I was like, are you kidding me? Where did this rose come from?” she says, “I just found the cheat code to the universe!”

Since then Jay says she has manifested everything from free cups of coffee to a job as a fashion week photographer. “I’ve worked in medicine, fashion, technology, a ton of different things and there’s just been a very distinct pattern of my ability to manifest through each one of them.”

Originally a medical student, Jay dropped out “much to [her] parent’s chagrin” to pursue a master’s degree in Ayurvedic Science and Integrative Medicine and now teaches manifestation techniques to private clients. “There’s been a big shift with people wanting to become more spiritual,” Jay says, noting the explosion of popularity among young people in particular. “I think it’s because people want something different from their life right now.”

I think it’s because people want something different from their life right now

According to spiritual manifestation coach Latha Jay (@latha_jay, 300k followers) there are three main things people are looking for help with manifesting: wealth, a dream house, and a dream spouse. Some gurus specialise in one of these areas, like 37-year-old Candace Charee (@effortlessmanifesting, 139k followers) who says she manifested her own husband.

During a relationship break with her on-and-off boyfriend she began imagining he was with her everywhere she went, pretending to hold his hand, setting an extra plate for him at the dinner table when she ate alone. “In my mind I saw I was blissfully married and I did not deviate from that,” she says. “I did all sorts of crazy things in my head. Those crazy things worked!”

Now her “speciality” is helping others do the same - “85 per cent of my followers and clients are trying to manifest love”. Charee says the 2020 film The Secret: Dare to Dream, which was based on Byrne’s book, may be behind the boom in manifestation popularity on social media.

Charee has spent years developing her own techniques, which she calls “neurocognitive reprogramming” and says it is the mindset that matters most when it comes to manifestation. “You are the creator of your reality. You don’t have to put the power into anything but yourself,” she says. “There’s a lot of bad coaching, people saying ‘don’t manifest on a full moon, don’t manifest with this specific crystal’, but none of that is true.”

Some swear by the 7x7x7 method (not to be confused with the similar 3,6,9 and 5x5x5) which include writing down your goal a set number of times. Some fold their paper in a certain way (three times towards you, to bring the manifestations your way) while others suggest dropping the list in a bottle of water, shaking them every few days as if to nudge the universe into action.

The comment sections beneath these tutorials are full of users insisting these methods have worked for them, although of course - as with all the parts of manifestation - there is little evidence of causation as opposed to correlation. But unfortunately for cynics, an important part of manifestation involves believing it will work - a Catch 22 if you’re seeing no results or not willing to try it.

People who believe in these forces do not engage in more positive activities like spending time working towards goals

Unfortunately for those making large followings out of manifestation, experts say there is still little science to back it up. Dr. Tchiki Davis, an expert on wellbeing technology and founder of The Berkeley Wellbeing Institute says there is science that supports the success of a positive mindset, but people should be weary of falling into the trap of “magical thinking”.

“These approaches suggest that we can manifest our thoughts into reality just by focusing on [what] we want. But there isn’t really any science behind these claims,” Davis says. “In psychology, these ‘supernatural’ methods are often referred to as magical thinking.

“People who believe in these forces do not engage in more positive activities like spending time working towards goals, dreams, or the future. So, this belief system does not generally result in the positive activities that are actually required for achieving positive outcomes.”

However, Davis says there is a fair amount of evidence behind the idea that your beliefs can affect your outcomes. She points to the research on growth mindset driven by Dr Carol Dweck that shows believing you can do something makes it more likely you will do that thing, but exerting the effort is a necessary next step.

Although she warns people should “stick to science-based approaches”. “There are lots of ways to reach your goals and create your dreams. But believing those dreams will magically appear is not one of them.”

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