What are glimmers and how do they work?
Glimmer is a term coined by Deb Dana, a clinical social worker and the author of ‘The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy’. Glimmers are micro-moments that spark a sense of safety, joy, connection and calm. Glimmers could be anything from feeling the sun on your skin, hugging your loved one, observing the clouds, playing with your pet, listening to the sound of the rain, seeing an authentic smile, dancing to your favourite music.
Glimmers don’t need to be big events, rather, they are brief moments when we feel calm, regulated and open, and they often pass by without notice. Biologically, glimmers help activate the ventral vagal branch of our autonomic nervous system that support us to feel safe and connected. Glimmers send a message to our brain that signals that we are safe. They are the opposite of triggers – the cues that signal to our brain that we are in danger and activate the threat response (fight-flight-freeze-fawn) and send us – often unexpectedly – into an intense emotional experience (like anger, fear or shame). Glimmers support us to regulate emotions and to come back to our window of tolerance. They can be our ally in times of stress, and they can also help us to develop a more regulated and resilient nervous system in the long-term.
Actively seeking glimmers – those warm feelings of connection to yourself, to others and to your surroundings – is an act of self-care. And the more we do it, the easier it gets to find them. So, how can you practice noticing glimmers in your everyday life? You can start by having the intention to look for glimmers each day. To look for things, activities, places, people, or pets that make you feel joyful, present, open, and connected. To cherish small yet valuable moments, like the first sip of your coffee in the morning; sensing the fresh breeze when you go outside; the laughter of your child when you are playing together; sending that last email at the end of a busy day; feeling the relaxing warmth when you crawl into your bed in the evening. You can also keep a journal of every glimmer you experience and then reflect on them at the end of a day. Another thing you can do is to reflect on the things that bring you joy and to make time to include them more often in your schedule – like dancing freely to your favourite music; taking a walk in nature; meeting your friends over food; singing along to the radio.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to glimmers. Enjoy finding your own unique ones!
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