Kelly Bertrand on the power of glimmers – how TikTok’s newest buzzword and a new mental health tool has worked for her
I had a really shit day last week.
We’re talking really shit – one of those ones that’s enough to send you straight back to bed to re-watch Friends for the 56th time with the bottomless gins and the bottomless tears that completely drain you and you wake up the next day and wonder why you feel hungover (oh yeah, the gin…)
A few years ago that’s exactly what I would have done (maybe with a McDonalds’s Uber Eats order too) and hell, I’m definitely not ruling that out in the future.
But not this time.
As I was dealing with thing on top of thing on top of bloody thing, I stopped, looked around and took a breath – and looked around for the glimmers.
“WTF are you on?” you may be asking yourself now – gin, probably – but, as I’ll hopefully explain to you, this gorgeous, sparkly term, and new zeitgeisty buzz word, can seriously help your mental health.
What are ‘glimmers’ – the science
Dubbed the opposite of a trigger, a glimmer is a little joyous moment in life that, if you’re not looking out for them, you might just miss.
Psychotherapist Deb Dana coined the term in her 2018 book Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation (catchy!). She writes, “Glimmers refer to small moments when our biology is in a place of connection or regulation, which cues our nervous system to feel safe or calm.
“We’re not talking great, big, expansive experiences of joy or safety or connection, these are micro moments that begin to shape our system in very gentle ways.”
While a ‘trigger’ might signal a potential physical, emotional or mental threat, a glimmer can help us enter a calm, joyful or peaceful state.
Despite my wildly dramatic introduction, glimmers are an everyday thing that can turn an average day into a special one, simply by tuning into what’s going on around you. It’s the idea of looking for joy in the in-between moments – and relying solely on the big moments of happiness to fulfil and sustain us. Rather than lead us to those huge, soul-bursting instnces of joy, glimmers instead nudge us ever-so-gently towards comfort, ease and an overarching feeling that, actually, everything is going to be ok.
Of course in this day and age, the concept has recently taken off on TikTok but hell, this time the Gen Z’s are onto something here.
What can be a glimmer?
Honestly, they’re pretty simple – they can be small things such as:
- Hearing your favourite song on the radio
- Patting a dog (or in my case, the mere sight of a dog)
- The feeling of sun on your face
- The first sip of coffee
- Seeing stars
- Finding time to yourself with a book.
The benefits of glimmers
Keeping yourself open to finding the little glimmers in life is the first step and, in my opinion, the most powerful part. In the same way that being open to mindfulness or gratitude, being open to glimmers means you’re actively looking for positivity, for joy and for everyday happiness – and that instantly helps keep the negative at bay.
Glimmers can be particularly helpful for those who have suffered trauma, and even in the post-pandemic uncertain world we’re living in when the words ‘hell in a handbasket’ come to mind. Says Deb, “Hopefulness lies in knowing that while early experiences shape the nervous system, ongoing experiences can reshape it.
“What we’ve discovered is as you begin to see a glimmer, you begin to look for more,” she adds. “It’s just what we do… and we then delight in finding them. That’s your nervous system beginning to shape toward the patterns of connection that are inherently waiting in there to be deepened and brought alive.”
While glimmers might seem trivial, they are incredible little micro-moments that calm our nervous system and help us realign our thought patterns, leading us towards positive frameworks rather than negative ones. And hell, we all need as much of that as possible in our lives right now!
Actively search out the glimmers in your life and see if it changes how you see the world. It worked for me!