By Kaia Roman, Author of The Joy Plan
The word “manifestation” triggers different responses for different people. For some, it’s a “woo woo” concept based in fantasy. For others, it’s a belief that drives a way of living.
I was introduced to the concept of manifestation as a child, told by my parents that I could visualize whatever I wanted and that would draw it to me. This has worked, in varying degrees, throughout my life.
But it’s not always that simple. Imagining what I want while feeling bad about not having it creates a mixed message—a split focus for both the brain and the Universe—and it never works to give me the outcome I desire. So how do you manifest something you don’t have yet, without focusing on lack?
The Joy Plan
Longing to know the truth about manifestation, I’ve explored the science behind it for years. However, my exploration into the topic took a turn from curiosity to full-on science experiment when I reached a particularly low time in my life.
In desperation, I grabbed onto an idea based on “The Law of Attraction” that I’d heard of, as if it was a life raft. The idea was that 30 days of focusing on your own joy is long enough to completely change your life. Calling on the body of scientific and personal research into hormones, neurotransmitters, mindfulness, and manifestation I had amassed over many years, I calculated a synthesized plan to go after joy from all angles. I called it The Joy Plan.
And it worked! Over the next 30 days and in the months that followed, my life and the lives of those around me transformed. I was shocked at how fast it happened. Once I figured out how to harness the neurobiology of joy and apply it in simple ways every day—my life morphed before my very eyes.
I chronicled my experience in a book called The Joy Plan; it’s my 320-page sticky note to refer back to when hard times rock my boat again (which they undoubtedly will). But while The Joy Plan is my story, it’s not just about me. Ultimately, it demonstrates how to find joy in your current life, even when it feels out of reach, and then watch your life transform to match your joy.
Here’s Why I Think It Works
Numerous studies in the arena of sports have shown that visualizing an outcome daily, such as dunking baskets in basketball, is nearly equal in effectiveness to actually performing the action, such as the daily practice of free throws. Group meditation with a focus on peace in certain urban areas has been correlated with a reduction in crime rate.
So, does manifestation really work?
First of all, I believe science and spirituality are two sides of the same coin, each informing and shaping the other. While there may be a higher power or deep, inner wisdom that answers the call of the desires we wish to manifest, our brains also play an important part in the equation.
Neural networks—clusters of neurons in the brain—grow stronger and larger each time we repeat thoughts and behaviors. Eventually, after they’re activated frequently enough, neural networks clump together to form neural pathways, like favorite highways our brains prefer because they are well-worn and familiar.
Our repeated thoughts eventually shape the way we see and experience the world, and thus inform our actions and reactions. Our minds become pre-disposed to return to repeated thought patterns which activate the neural pathways our brains have become accustomed to. In fact, we unknowingly seek out evidence to confirm those thought patterns because our neural pathways are always hard at work.
As the ancient proverb says, “Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become habits. Watch your habits for they become your character. Watch your character for it becomes your destiny.”
Albert Einstein said, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” He also explained, when describing his famous equation E=MC2, that “Mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing—a somewhat unfamiliar conception for the average mind.”
So if thoughts create our world and energy is just as real as mass, we can utilize the energy of our thoughts to create tangible results in life. This is not just philosophy; this is physics.
What You Think, You Become
Quantum physics has proven that, at the subatomic level, all matter is made of energy and our thoughts influence the behavior of that energy. Scientists have found in study after study that our observations of reality alter the reality we observe. In fact, quantum physicists claim it is the very act of observing reality that creates it in the first place. Essentially, our thoughts shift subatomic particles and create our physical world.
Our brains have an inbuilt experiential bias, favoring memories with a strong emotional charge. We’re also programmed with a cognitive bias that requires three positive experiences to balance the impact of one negative experience. Stored memories are often played on a feedback loop, activating strong neural pathways and triggering repeated thoughts, behaviors, and thus, experiences—whether negative or positive.
Knowing all of this, I’ve come to the conclusion that positive thoughts really are the key to manifesting what I want in life. By consciously forming new neural networks, and eventually, neural pathways, associated with feelings of joy, abundance, and possibility, I can open up more than my brain—I can open up my world.
When we find joy in spite of the conditions we’re currently experiencing, those conditions morph to match our joy. By intentionally practicing thinking new thoughts, we can create new patterns in our brains, which ultimately translate into a new experience of life.
Buddha said, “What you think, you become.” And I believe neuroscientists would say the same. Our experience of life is shaped by what we think about it, and whether you call that “manifestation,” “The Law of Attraction,” or simply “the power of positive thinking,” if you can do it, you’ll be on track to a joyful life.
Kaia Roman is the author of the memoir, The Joy Plan: How I Took 30 Days to Stop Worrying, Quit Complaining, and Find Ridiculous Happiness. She writes about how she went from joyless and anxious to grateful and optimistic so she can remember how she did it if she forgets.