‘Glimmers’ are the opposite of triggers. Here’s how to embrace them.

March 25, 2022

“Trigger” has become a commonplace term in our cultural lexicon, but few people know about the opposite of triggers: glimmers.

Coined by  Deb Dana, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in complex trauma, in her 2018 book,  The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy, the term refers to  small moments when our biology is in a place of connection or regulation, which cues our nervous system to feel safe or calm, reports USA Today.

“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,” she explains.

And the concept has taken hold. On TikTok, for example, one video about glimmers has gained more than 78,000 likes and hundreds of comments expressing appreciation for the idea of embracing glimmers.

“I love this … and (I’m going to) hold on tight to it,” one user commented. “Ohhhh this is my new favorite thing ever,” another wrote.

So, what exactly is a glimmer? 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 OK, even for a fleeting moment.

Glimmers can be found in different places and senses—among them:

  • In nature, admiring your garden or seeing the stars in the sky,
  • In a stranger’s smile or the warmth of a loved one’s voice,
  • In the company of furry friends, and
  • In music, such as with unexpected church bells or your favorite song playing on the radio.

“You feel something happen inside. There’s an energy that happens around a glimmer, and then your brain then marks it as well,” Dana adds.

Who can benefit from glimmers? Noticing glimmers can be beneficial for everyone—but is especially helpful for people who have experienced trauma.

“The thing I love about glimmers is that, working with trauma survivors, it’s so respectful of their suffering,” Dana says. “It allows them to understand that their biology is wired in a way that, we don’t discount the trauma or the crisis or the ongoing suffering, but we recognize that their biology is exquisitely set up to be able to also notice the micro moments of goodness.”

Our brains have a natural tendency to look for the bad, says Amy Morin, a licensed clinical social worker and editor-in-chief of Verywell Mind.

“Being on the lookout for danger can help us stay physically safe. But since we are no longer lurking in the forest hiding from hungry animals, we don’t need to focus on the negative quite so much to stay physically safe,” she says.

“It’s really good for us to have a break from our uncomfortable emotions sometimes,” Morin explains. “A little joy and some relaxation can reduce your emotional distress.”

And when you are less emotional, you are more logical, she adds. “That means you might be able to tackle a problem from a different angle because you see things a little differently. Or you might be able to talk yourself into doing something difficult, once your anxiety subsides a little,” she says. “Less emotional distress can also help you take more positive action. And that positive action can help make your life better.”

Morin suggests allowing yourself to fully embrace feel-good emotions. “Sometimes people don’t want to feel them because they know those emotions won’t last, or they might feel guilty for feeling good during a hard time in their lives,” she says. “But trust that it’s OK to allow yourself to experience them. Enjoy them while they last. And know that you’ll have more moments of joy in the future as well.”

Research contact: @USATODAY