We’ve all heard of triggers, something that causes painful or unpleasant memories to resurface, but what about the altogether lovelier sibling of triggers, the glimmer?

Recognizing our glimmers can help us nurture our nervous systems, taking us out of the fight or flight mode that triggers send us into, and helping to improve our mood. But what are glimmers, and how can they make us happier?

What is a glimmer?

The concept of glimmers was coined by Deb Dana, a psychotherapist specializing in complex trauma. She explains that glimmers are the micro moments, situations or feelings in your day that spark a sense of joy, happiness, positively and wellbeing, even if momentarily.  They can be as grand as a rainbow arching across the sky or as subtle as a stranger’s smile on a gloomy day. Glimmers come in various forms, and while their presence may be fleeting, their impact can be profound.

Glimmers are the opposite of triggers. Glimmers tell your nervous system that you are safe and well in the world. This tends to feel good in our bodies, creating a gentle, warm shift within. Often glimmers can pass right by us without us really taking note of them.

Why are glimmers Important?

Resilience Builder: During tough times, it’s the small moments of joy and hope that remind us of the brighter side of life. These glimmers can act as a buffer against despair and help build resilience against adversities.

Motivation Boosters: Glimmers can rekindle motivation. For someone working on a challenging project, a word of appreciation can be that glimmer of encouragement. For someone undergoing a health challenge, a good day amidst the bad ones can offer hope and renewed energy.

Connection to the Present: In our fast-paced lives, we often forget to live in the present. Glimmers, by nature, are fleeting, urging us to slow down, notice and appreciate them right at the moment.

What are examples of glimmers?

A glimmer might be smelling coffee as it brews, stroking and snuggling a pet, the sight of a wild animal in its natural habitat such as the chirping of birds, the fragrance of fresh flowers or trees, the serenity of a lakeside view, sounds of the waves lapping on shore,  hearing a song on the radio you love or a stranger giving you a warm smile can be the glimmers we so need.

These little micro-moments act like a gentle hug to our nervous system, helping us feel safe, present, connected and moving us out of that self-critical place, to a more soothing place.

Are glimmers hard to find?

We all have a negativity bias, meaning we tend to focus on negative things, so glimmers can often pass right by without us savoring them.

Therefore, with glimmers, it’s important we pay attention when they show up and sit with the pleasant feelings and sensations they bring.

The more we spotlight glimmers, the better able we are to activate the rest and relax branches of our nervous system. This moves us out of our self-critical mind and into moments of inner calm where we feel connected to ourselves and others, which has a positive impact on our wellbeing.

How to spot your glimmers – and make the most of them

1. Keep a journal: Keeping a gratitude journal or simply acknowledging and appreciating the good in life can make us more receptive to glimmers.

2. Savour glimmer moments: When a glimmer occurs, stop, pause and soak it up. Notice the emotions, thoughts, how it feels in your body and savour the moment. Ask yourself: How does this make me feel? Practicing mindfulness can help us become more attuned to the present and appreciate the small joys life offers. When we repeatedly move the spotlight to glimmers, our nervous system becomes more flexible and can move between different states more easily, instead of being stuck in survival mode.

3. Listen to music: Curate a playlist that ignites those goose bump, feel-good glimmers. Songs that bring amazing memories to mind are brilliant glimmers.

4. Cultivate meaningful connections: Notice the people that feel good and nurturing to be around, and those that trigger you. Consciously connect with those that activate a sense of calm and warmth. Engaging in activities that bring joy, connecting with positive people, pets, or consuming uplifting content can increase the frequency of these moments.

In short, while life may not always be a smooth ride, it’s the glimmers that keep us going. They serve as reminders that even in the darkest nights, stars still shine. Recognizing, cherishing, and seeking out these glimmers can make our journey a lot brighter. So, the next time you come across a fleeting moment of joy, pause, cherish it, and let it illuminate your path.

Submitted by
Shelley Heavens HBSW, RSW