Find Your Glimmers to Minimizing Stress

Find Your Glimmers to Minimizing Stress

You just need a quick scroll on social media to feel like the world is a troubling place right now. While we’ve all heard of triggers — those moments that catch you by surprise and send your body into fight or flight mode — you are less likely to know about triggers’ siblings: glimmers.

The term was coined by Deb Dana, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in complex trauma, in her 2018 book “The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy,” in which she identified the small micro moments of joy that lead our bodies to experience feelings of connection, calm, and joy. While the word conjures up images of faint, fleeting light, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they are hard to come by — but in actuality, glimmers are all around us. You just need to tune in to them.

While there’s little doubt we could all do with coming across our own personal glimmers as often as possible, just how beneficial are they? How do glimmers differ from triggers? And, most importantly, how do we find them? We speak to trauma-informed integrative therapist Abby Rawlinson, author of “Reclaiming You,” which is available to preorder now, for more information on glimmers and why they are so important.

What Are Glimmers?

Rawlinson explains that glimmers refer to the people, places, and experiences that help regulate our nervous system. They are small moments that occur during the day and bring a sense of calm, happiness, and appreciation. Despite their seemingly insignificant nature, glimmers actually trigger a physical response in our bodies, promoting a state of calmness.

Rawlinson further elaborates that glimmers activate a specific part of our body called the vagus nerve, which is often referred to as the “care-taking” or wandering nerve. The vagus nerve originates in the core of the brain and extends all the way to the gut. Its role is to bring us back to a regulated state where we feel calm, focused, and at ease.

While significant events can certainly bring happiness, there is great value in recognizing and embracing these small moments of joy. Sometimes, these glimmers can evoke memories of past moments of safety, while other times, they simply involve appreciating passing things that bring a smile to our faces.

Rawlinson emphasizes that glimmers have the ability to shift our nervous system into a regulated state. When we are in this state, we experience positivity, a sense of manageability in life, and the ability to be productive, creative, and capable of handling challenges. Being regulated gives us a general feeling of “everything is OK,” fostering trust in others and the world around us.

What Are the Differences Between Triggers and Glimmers?

According to Rawlinson, glimmers have the opposite impact compared to triggers. While triggers activate the survival responses of our nervous system, glimmers evoke feelings of calmness and relaxation. They bring us back to a state of equilibrium and balance, known as homeostasis, where our system is regulated.

Triggers often elicit memories of past traumatic experiences, whereas glimmers have the power to remind us of moments filled with joy and happiness.

How to Find Your Glimmers

Discovering your own personal glimmers can be a challenging task, as they are unique to each individual and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Our nervous systems are wired to focus on threats rather than moments of safety, and Rawlinson explains that the sensations we experience when we are in a regulated state can be more subtle compared to those when we are dysregulated.

It is crucial to start paying deliberate attention to what brings you a sense of ease. Take a pause and reflect on the situations or activities that have made you feel calm. Rawlinson suggests asking yourself questions like: What activities make me feel nourished and relaxed? Who are the people that make me feel safe and accepted? Which places bring me happiness and peace?

Rawlinson further explains that glimmers can be categorized into two types: self-regulating glimmers and co-regulating glimmers. Self-regulating glimmers encompass activities that you can do on your own to regulate yourself, such as reading, engaging in creative pursuits, spending time in nature, practicing yoga, or taking a bath. Co-regulating glimmers involve interactions with others that help bring you into a regulated state, such as sharing laughter with a friend, talking to a therapist, having deep conversations with your partner, or cuddling with a pet.

We tend to categorize our days as either good or bad, but the reality is that our lives are filled with fluctuating ups and downs. Glimmers are the numerous micro moments of positivity that occur throughout our lives. They can be as small as hearing your favorite song on the radio, brewing a cup of tea, or lighting a candle.

Keeping a record of your glimmers in one place can be helpful, allowing you to revisit them when you feel anxious or disconnected. By tuning in to these glimmers and actively seeking or creating more of them when needed, you can cultivate a calmer state of mind.

Tips For Seeking Out More Glimmers at Times of Unease

Rawlinson suggests actively seeking moments of awe. Awe is experienced when we encounter something that possesses extraordinary qualities that seem beyond our comprehension. Examples of awe-inspiring experiences include witnessing the birth of a child, attending a mind-blowing concert, or marveling at a beautiful sunset. These moments of awe not only divert our attention from ourselves but also evoke a profound sense of appreciation. Moreover, they have the capacity to shift our nervous system from a state of dysregulation characterized by anxiety, anger, or hopelessness to a more regulated state where we feel happy, present, and at ease.

It is important to note that experiencing awe doesn’t necessarily require grand or extravagant plans, such as elaborate vacations or once-in-a-lifetime trips. Awe can be found in the ordinary moments of our everyday lives. It can be experienced by immersing ourselves in powerful music, appreciating the beauty of nature, connecting with remarkable individuals or stories, or listening to inspiring speeches. These everyday experiences have the potential to evoke a sense of awe and contribute to regulating our nervous system.

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