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How to Catch ‘Lucky Girl Syndrome’ and Why You’d Want to

Anyone can benefit from this power-of-positive-thinking trend

​​If you have a 20-something in your life, you may have heard of lucky girl syndrome, which has gone viral on TikTok. Content creators claim this “syndrome” is transforming their daily lives and bringing them good fortune. ​

The newest self-help craze, lucky girl syndrome is Gen Z’s spin on books like The Power of Positive ThinkingThe Secret and Manifest Your Destiny: The Nine Spiritual Principles for Getting Everything You Want. This year’s version, however, puts the emphasis on luck and consistently reminding yourself that the universe is conspiring to make good things happen for you because you are a lucky person. ​

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TikTok videos with the hashtag #luckygirlsyndrome had more than 403 million views by mid-February. ​

Much of the buzz about this trend stems from TikTok influencer Laura Galebe, who told her audience she had tried an experiment: After hearing a neuroscientist say the brain is especially receptive to remembering information upon awakening, she started saying aloud, “I’m so lucky. Great things always happen to me unexpectedly,” every time she woke up. ​

The 22-year-old New Yorker had always felt like a lucky person, she tells her TikTok audience, but she soon noticed that good things started “flying at my face” and that every single day thereafter she had a nice surprise, large or small. ​

Does lucky girl syndrome work? 

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There is power in looking on the bright side, and positive thinking trends can be useful when put into practice, according to Natalie Dattilo, a clinical psychologist and an instructor at Harvard Medical School who is a mindset expert. ​

“At first glance, it appears these influencers are appreciating what we call ‘belief effects,’ a very real phenomenon observed in psychological research that forms the basis of mindset science,” Dattilo says. “In a nutshell, we experience what we expect — for better or worse. If we expect things to work out for us, they generally do. If we don’t, they generally don’t.”

This phenomenon is similar to something called confirmation bias, which is the tendency to test one’s beliefs by looking for evidence that confirms them. Much of the time people are unaware of their beliefs and don’t appreciate the invisible influence they have, Dattilo says. ​

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Because mindset can determine what people pay attention to and remember, it can motivate behavior and even affect a person’s biology in ways they can’t consciously control. One example is the placebo effect, which can take over when someone is unknowingly given a sugar pill instead of a pain reliever and somehow the headache goes away nonetheless. And researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine found that people with a family history of heart disease who also had a positive mindset were one-third less likely to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular event than those whose mindset was more negative.​ ​

Some see the upside; others are skeptics

Even though lucky girl syndrome is a hot topic for Gen Z, it might be even more suited to older adults. Research shows that as people get older, they’re more likely to see the positive in situations, says Regina Koepp, a clinical psychologist and founder and director of the online Center for Mental Health & Aging.

“As we age, we possess more psychological resilience and are less at risk for depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns,” Koepp says. A recent Dutch study showed that older people experienced more positive than negative emotions compared to their younger counterparts, which held true across cultures, even during the stress of the pandemic.​

There has been plenty of criticism of lucky girl syndrome and its predecessors, underscoring the privilege these methods require (hard to tell yourself you’re lucky if you don’t have a home or enough food) and the shaming involved if you’re practicing what they preach and bad things happen nonetheless. ​

Rather than focusing on luck, there are several practices that are more likely to shift your outlook from negative to positive and help you believe that good things, large and small, are coming your way. Experts recommend practices like these: ​

  • Jotting down a list of the things you appreciate in a given day as well as the things you’re looking forward to tomorrow
  • Spending time with friends or family who make you feel good​
  • Eating nutritious meals
  • Getting daily exercise
  • Spending time in nature

​​To catch lucky girl syndrome, TikTok influencer Galebe suggests keeping a journal divided into four parts: ​

  1. A daily schedule to keep you grounded and present ​
  2. Affirmations written in your own authentic voice ​
  3. Things you’re grateful for written as casually as if it were a text ​
  4. A script of what you plan to manifest in your life ​

She also advises her audience to interpret every good thing that happens as luck; delete the version of yourself that believes you’re not lucky; and when something doesn’t go your way, tell yourself that it wasn’t for you and that something better is coming along. This, she says, will teach you that rejection is redirection while telling your subconscious you are open to better things happening to you. (If you choose to incorporate any of the above, keep in mind that these are the recommendations of a TikTok influencer who is not a mental health professional.)​

And despite all of the positive steps you can take to enjoy your days, Koepp says that all humans are vulnerable to mental health concerns. Reach out to a professional if you begin to notice signs and symptoms of depression or anxiety. “Mental health conditions are highly treatable at any age,” Koepp says, “even older adulthood.”​

What Is Toxic Positivity? 

Looking on the bright side and seeing a glass half-full is great, but try to avoid what experts call “toxic positivity.” ​

“Healthy positivity allows us to make room for a difficult reality while also having hope for the future,” says Miami-based therapist Whitney Goodman, author of Toxic Positivity. “Toxic positivity denies an emotion and forces us to suppress it.” ​

People using toxic positivity attempt to reframe or deny negative emotions rather than validating and dealing with them. An unrelenting pressure to appear happy and be happy in all situations, no matter what, isn’t the answer, Goodman says.​

Positivity becomes toxic, she says, when used:​

  • In conversations where someone is looking for support, validation or compassion and instead is met with a platitude​
  • To shame people into feeling like they’re not doing enough, working hard enough, or that their difficult emotions are invalid​
  • To shame ourselves for not being happy enough or positive enough​
  • To deny our reality​
  • To gaslight or silence someone who has legitimate concerns or questions​
  • To tell people everything bad in their life is their fault​​

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