I’m always looking for ways to nurture a positive mindset and promote happiness, and I recently heard about glimmers from a friend (thanks for sharing Sonja!) The concept appealed so much that I started actively looking for, noticing and embracing them as often as possible. As I am currently studying a Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing, I was also interested in the science behind them. I feel everyone can benefit from expressing appreciation in this way, so I thought I’d share.
We’ve all heard of ‘triggers’ – a signal where your brain associates past traumatic events as if they're happening right now, leading to the brain and body being on high alert. When you’re in that state, your sympathetic nervous system, which regulates the body’s response to a stressful situation, is activated, increasing the heart rate, and blood pressure, and pumping extra adrenaline to you to prepare you for danger.
A glimmer is the exact opposite of a trigger—it is some kind of cue, either internal or external that brings one back to a sense of joy or safety. It’s a micro-moment that makes you happier, a little moment of awe, something that makes you feel hope. However, glimmers aren't just tiny moments that bring joy or happiness, they can also spark ease, relaxation, safety, connection or a feeling that the world is okay even for a fleeting moment. Whilst triggers can stimulate a flight, fight or freeze response, glimmers can move the body into that feeling of safety and connection and into the ventral vagal state – one state of the nervous system’s parasympathetic response, described as when your heart is open, you feel connected to others, you make eye contact, you see others' faces; and you may feel calm, joyful, energised, or curious.
Our brains have a natural tendency to look for the bad, especially in order to keep us physically safe, but by recognising glimmers, the small, positive moments over and over, we can begin to shape our system, and this shift to recognising the bright side can have a beneficial impact on our mind and health, and therefore our overall wellbeing.
Glimmers can be found in different places, and some common examples include:
Feeling the warmth of the sun
Sensing the cool, salty ocean air
The smell of cut grass
Seeing a rainbow
Sunlight sparkling on water
Smelling lavender or some other relaxing scent
Petting a dog or cat
Being in nature
A stranger smiling at you in public
The perfect cup of coffee
Now that you can recognise what a glimmer is, how do you embrace them? Luckily, it doesn't require a lot of practice. We want to start small because for many people, finding a glimmer is a challenge, for a variety of reasons. You may want to start by setting a "glimmer intention." For example, you may decide "I'm going to look for one glimmer before lunch." You can also keep a glimmer journal to write down what you discovered and reflect at the end of the day. And because we're wired for connection, if there's someone else in your life who wants to go on a "glimmer journey" with you, you can share your glimmers with them, which brings them alive.
As you begin to see a glimmer, you begin to look for more, and then delight in finding them. Our nervous system begins to shape toward the patterns of connection that are inherently waiting in there to be deepened and brought alive. Embracing glimmers is a simple (but maybe not initially easy) and effective practice that can make life feel so much sweeter!
"All those small glimmers... connecting, collecting... have turned into an undeniable possibility... casting a light that cuts through the darkness of despair – ! So I... made up my mind. I’ll never stop reaching for that light!!!"