Using the Law of Attraction to Create a Stress-Free Life

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Using the law of attraction can help you hone your focus and meet your goals. PM Images/Getty Images

The Law of Attraction is the idea that our experiences are created by our thoughts and feelings, and that what we focus our attention on will be brought into our lives. As a philosophical theory, the law of attraction has an ancient history. Its popularity soared in recent years because of books like "The Secret" and coverage by Oprah and the media.

There are different theories about how the law of attraction could work, as well as some important caveats. If you're curious, here's a quick history of the belief, how it's said to work, and exercises you can try to use it relieve stress (and maybe even manifest the things you want in life).

The Law of Attraction

The theory that the energy of our thoughts (positive or negative) attracts experiences of the same energy to come into our lives (or manifest). The concept is generally summed up as "Like attracts like."

Background

Iterations of the law of attraction principle go back to ancient (even Biblical) times, but the root concept that is referenced today emerged during the 19th century as part of the New Thought movement.

The idea wasn't referred to as the "law of attraction" until 1877 when a Russian occultist named Helena Blavatsky used the term to describe the powerful energy between different elements of the human spirit. In 1886, Prentice Mulford wrote a popular essay about the law of attraction (which he called The Law of Success).

In his 1897 book, "In Tune With The Infinite," Ralph Trine wrote that the law of attraction "works universally on every plane of action, and we attract whatever we desire or expect. If we desire one thing and expect another, we become like houses divided against themselves, which are quickly brought to desolation."

Ralph Trine, "In Tune With The Infinite" (1897)

Determine resolutely to expect only what you desire, then you will attract only what you wish for.

— Ralph Trine, "In Tune With The Infinite" (1897)

The concept continued to be written about and touted by philosophers, self-help authors, and motivational speakers well into the 21st century. In 2006, the law of attraction formed the basis for Rhonda Byrne's film and subsequent bestselling book, "The Secret."

How It Works

According to the law of attraction, your thoughts have the power to manifest in your life. For example, if you think positively and visualize yourself with enough money to live comfortably, you will attract opportunities that can make these desires a reality.

On the other hand, if you constantly focus on the aspects of your life that you are unhappy with, you will continue to attract negative outcomes and experiences.

Criticism

A major criticism of the law of attraction belief is that while it credits people for manifesting positive outcomes in their lives, it also places blame on people when bad things happen to them.

For example, it implies that a person who is diagnosed with cancer must have attracted it into their life through their negative thoughts and energy. Then, once a person is sick, they must keep their thoughts positive to manifest healing, wellness, or even a cure.

Exercises to Try

The law of attraction is widely regarded as pseudoscience. However, it uses several actual psychological techniques, such as cognitive reframing and visualization, that help people think differently about their circumstances.

The law of attraction won't magically grant you everything you've ever wanted, but it isn't necessarily useless.

You might find that practicing the basic principles:

  • Encourages you to cultivate a more positive attitude
  • Gives you opportunities to reflect on and enjoy what you have
  • Helps you recognize, challenge, and shift your perspective
  • Keeps you motivated to dream and reach for your goals

If you want to think differently about your life and create a positive environment where change can thrive, here are some exercises to try.

While you can do each one on its own, you might find it helpful to think of each exercise as a step that builds on the work you did in the previous one.

List Your Frustrations

Make a list of all the things in your life that have you feeling frustrated, or that you’d like to change—for example, a stressful job, your children’s behavior, or conflict in your relationships.

Think of the Positives

Next, start a journal. For each frustration on your list, think of every possible positive aspect of the situation. For example, the benefits of your difficult job might be steady income, creative challenge, or personal growth.

Make peace with what you have while you continue to make progress toward what you’d like to have.

You could then see your job as a vehicle for expanding your level of patience. If not, you might find that the job's purpose is to bring you valuable information about what is not working in your life.

It might be that the positive outcome of the negative experience you're having at your job is that you leave it to pursue a career that is better suited to your talents and skills.

Write or Visualize Your Wishes

Once you've listed the things you don't want in your life, write down what you would like to have. Your list isn't just for putting the positive energy out into the world that you want to get back; it will also help you clarify your goals.

Your cosmic wishlist can also be a source of inspiration to turn to when you feel like giving up on your dreams.

If you're more of a visual thinker than a scribe, you could draw, make a collage, or use a website like Pinterest to curate images of the things you want.

Building and maintaining a visual image of what you want in your life (instead of focusing on what you don’t want) can be a powerful way to attract positive change and opportunity.

Make a detailed list of what you would like to be different about your life. Each day, take a moment to visualize what your new life would look like and how it would feel.

You can also practice "manifesting" what you want. It could be something as simple as having a particular flower for your garden. Take time to create a vivid image in your mind of what the flower would look like in your yard, how it would smell, and how it would feel in your hands gathered up in a bouquet.

Maintain a Positive Attitude

Having a positive attitude is about more than putting a smile on your face; it means working on feeling grateful for what you already have, and for what you believe will come. Shift your focus from what you feel you lack toward feelings of gratitude and abundance.

You can also strengthen your positive mindset by sharing your goals, dreams, and intentions with others. Spreading your positivity to your loved ones also allows you to get and give support.

The most important part of manifesting is letting it go. By doing so, you free yourself from the worry of whether or not it will appear in your life and open yourself up to the possibility that it might.

Think, Feel, Act

Try to keep your thoughts, feelings, and behavior focused on your goals rather than on your frustrations. You can do this by using positive self-talk, visualizing the life you want each day, working on your plan of action, and spreading kindness and doing good deeds.

Tips for Using the Law of Attraction

  • Accept what is. Avoid focusing only on what you dislike about your life or spending all your time wishing things were different. Accepting what is right now doesn't mean you won't be working on making positive changes. It's more of a reminder to not fall into the trap of constant negativity.
  • Consider how you think. If you’re not sure how your thoughts affect your life, assessing your thought patterns and determining where you are on the spectrum of optimism and pessimism can be helpful.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Record all the things in your life that you're grateful for. There are many benefits to journaling, and the practice helps you develop an attitude of gratitude (which creates a space for more abundance).
  • Reframe your focus. Frame your thoughts the same way you would create positive affirmations: Focus on what you want rather than what frustrates you.
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Article Sources
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  2. Blavatsky, HP. Isis Unveiled. Vol 1, Chapter 10. 1877.

  3. Mulford, P. Your Forces and How to Use Them. Vol 1. FJ Needham; New York; 1903.

  4. Trine, RW. In Tune With the Infinite: Fullness of Peace, Power, and Plenty. 1897.

  5. Huelsenbeck, R. Cancer and The Secret. Updated 2009.