Life right now feels… stressful. The events that have taken place over the last few years still linger, like a bruise that just won’t heal. War and famine stretch worldwide. Even in the “Land of the Free,” people are trying to dictate who to love, how to live, and what we can or cannot read. But as one TikTok mama points out, amid the triggers and trauma, little life-affirming moments wait in the wings to remind us that there’s joy to be found, too. They’re called “glimmers.”
In a recent video, Meredith Steele (@babiesofsteele) shared a profound experience during a trip to Denmark. “I had a real-life glimmer recently,” she wrote. While on our family vacation, on a quiet, lazy day spent wandering around a new place, our son stopped my husband and said, ‘I really like the way you guys are when you’re here. You’re both just so happy.'”
That feeling their family felt — and the awareness that followed — is what psychotherapist Deb Dana coined a glimmer, explained Steele in her video.
What is a “glimmer”?
Have you ever had a moment of kindness, sweetness, or just pure, unadulterated happiness in your day that stopped you in your tracks? You may have had your own real-life glimmer.
Dana, who authored The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy and specializes in complex trauma, defined glimmers as “small moments when our biology is in a place of connection or regulation, which cues our nervous system to feel safe or calm.”
If triggers activate your fight, flight, freeze, or fawn responses, glimmers do the opposite. They put you at ease. In sharing her vacation experience, Steele described glimmers as “the micro-moments in our day that spark a sense of joy and wellbeing.”
What are examples of a glimmer?
According to the Neurodiversity Education Academy, “Glimmers give us a calm, peaceful, and joyful state.” They give examples like basking in nature, petting animals, the smell of bread, or wrapping up with a blanket.
Like we’re often triggered by different instances, you might find glimmers in things others don’t. Maybe it’s your little girl’s hands finding your face in the morning. You might feel a glimmer while pumping your legs up and down on a swing like you did as a child. Or maybe it’s when you see your neighbor’s new doodle puppy trotting down the street.
Glimmers boost that serotonin and make you feel safe and settled. Steele also describes a glimmer as something that creates “a gentle, warm shift within,” which couldn’t be more perfect.
How can you spot a glimmer?
You can find a glimmer anywhere — the best advice anyone could give you is to just be present in the moment. You’re most likely experiencing glimmers every day. The key to harnessing their power is to acknowledge them for what they are.
Most cat parents love it when their cat “headbutts” them, but the exchange loses its novelty over time. The next time it happens, though, stop and process what your cat is “saying.” Focus on how it feels when she flops over beside you in bed and what the companionship means for both of you. By reframing your perspective, you may be able to turn a seemingly mundane moment into a glimmer.
Just like triggers, glimmers are all around. Being present enough to notice and appreciate them will go a long, long way in making your day more magical.