So for many of us, especially those of us deeply entrenched in the worlds of mental health awareness and wellness, the idea of a trigger isn’t unfamiliar.
In case you were unsure, though, Psych Central says that triggers are ‘sensory reminders that cause painful memories or symptoms to resurface.’
These can be reminders of a traumatic event, somebody that hurt you, an anniversary, the feelings you felt during a difficult time or the breakup of a relationship. They’re, at best, unpleasant, and at worst, quite traumatising in themselves, especially for people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
People try to support each other through triggers by providing trigger warnings for potentially harmful content on social media, in literature and even on TV in an effort to avoid the person being triggered and dealing with the aftermath of that. Trigger warnings are a useful tool for self-care and protection.
Now, social media users and mental health professionals are discussing what they’re calling the ‘opposite’ of triggers – glimmers.
The intentional joy of glimmers
Theodora Blanchfield, an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT) describes glimmers as “some kind of cue, either internal or external that brings one back to a sense of joy or safety. This can be anything from catching a view of the skyline of your favourite city to seeing a picture of your pet.”
She adds that “in our overstimulated worlds, glimmers can be the answer to regulating our overwhelmed nervous systems.”
So, where did this come from?
Well, right back in 1995, behavioural neuroscientist Stephen Porges introduced ’Polyvagal Theory’ which describes how our autonomic nervous system (which controls involuntary actions like breathing) is searching for and reading cues to find out if they’re dangerous.
By seeking glimmers, people are undertaking a process called ‘neuroception’ and the vagus nerve, which regulates organ functions, is responsible for the warm feelings we get from it.
How to find our glimmers
As with all wellness trends, glimmers have taken off on TikTok and creators on the app have spoken about their experiences with this sensation. The aptly named creator ‘The Incurable Optimist’ says that a glimmer is a ‘little moment of awe’ that, once you start looking for them and embracing them, life feels ‘so much sweeter.’
Psychotherapist Tasha Bailey agrees, saying that these glimmers make us feel safety, joy, and can even soothe our traumas.
So really, they’re deeply personal to you. If you have pets, it could be thinking about cuddling or playing with them. It could be being in nature, the smell of freshly baked bread or even just the smell of a luscious garden.
Blanchfield recommends that if you’re looking to identify your own personal glimmers, you should:
- Close your eyes and picture a moment of peace. This can be somewhere that you’ve been, somewhere that’s only in your imagination or somewhere you hope to go there
- Think of what made you feel safe and cared for as a child and if you didn’t have that, try to give it to your inner child by receiving a hug from somebody else or even using a weighted blanket
- Think of a loved one. The person you can be yourself around, that brings out the best in you. Alternatively, think of a fictional character or actor that brings you comfort and watch one of their films
Basically, it seems that these ‘micro moments of goodness’ bring us home to ourselves.