Every now and then the world resets, not in the catastrophic meteoric way, but in the pop culture, “we all need a reminder of the good in the world” way. Fortunately for you, today is that day.
For too long we have spent time focusing on our lighthearted “triggers” - like when you ask for oat milk in your coffee and get normal milk instead, or when you ask your partner to bring in the washing and they pretend they “didn’t hear you”.
Let the triggers take a back seat, because nowadays it’s all about embracing the new social media trend of “glimmers”. It may sound like a fad trend that we will all forget in six months’ time, and maybe we will, but the mental health benefits prove we shouldn’t.
What is a glimmer?
If this article isn’t the first time you’ve heard of the trend, chances are you heard about it through TikTok or other social media platforms, but as it turns out a “glimmer” wasn’t first discovered on the apps. USA Today reported it was actually first acknowledged by Deb Dana, a licensed clinical social worker who specialises in complex trauma.
In her book The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy, which was first published in 2018, Dana found that while triggers result in a fight or flight response, “glimmers” are the opposite. She wrote that they are small moments in our day-to-day lives that make our nervous system feel safe or calm.
“We’re not talking great, big, expansive experiences of joy or safety or connection,” she wrote. “These are micro-moments that begin to shape our system in very gentle ways.”
Examples of glimmers
An experience that sparks joy, safety or connection can be so many different things, so what exactly is an example of a glimmer? In simple terms, it is a good thing in your life no matter how big or small it is.
For some people it might be seeing the new Barbie movie with your best friends, for others it can be a perfectly toasted slice of bread with butter. The trend has taken off on TikTok and a simple search of the hashtag reveals countless examples. For user Tea with Teenie, her list of glimmers includes a fresh pillowcase, clean socks, a song you haven’t heard in a long time and forgot you loved, among many others.
How glimmers benefit mental health
The feel-good term is a good way to look at the positives of day-to-day life and has resulted in many TikTok users confessing it’s helped with their mental health. One user said that glimmers are helpful for people who feel like they are frequently having bad days as they result in someone moving their focus from negative aspects of their day to more positive ones.
“Glimmers can give you an opportunity to see that okay, it was a day with hard moments, but there was also some good moments,” psychotherapist, Shaddia Ghneim said. “It creates a sense of coping with the hardships, or maybe a buffer from those hard times so you don’t feel as heavy.”
Another user shared a video of her “glimmers” which included a sunny day, a walk in the park, a vibrant flower and told users of the app: “Actively noticing glimmers is a wonderful way to support your mental health & nervous system.”
A third shared videos of her with her children going for a walk while on a camping trip, writing: “Trauma wires the brain to become hypervigilant and focus on cues of danger. Looking for Glimmers can help the nervous system move out of hyper and hyperarousal.”
It’s a theory Dana supports. In her book, she notes that glimmers are most beneficial to people who have experienced trauma of some sort. She explained that glimmers are a respectful therapy method with trauma survivors as it doesn’t “discount the trauma or the crisis or the ongoing suffering” but recognises that while they may constantly be looking for threats, or negatives in situations, they can also focus on “the micro moments of goodness”.
In turn, focusing on the glimmers can help to reshape the mind and help us take a break from negative emotions so that we can sit back, relax and enjoy the good of life.
How to incorporate glimmers into your life
The concept of a glimmer is simple, the examples even simpler, so it feels only right that incorporating them into your day-to-day life is an easy task.
To start with, you may decide to find one glimmer a day, this could be anything from the bus driver giving you a friendly smile, or making your friend laugh. Then, as it becomes more natural for you to acknowledge glimmers, you can increase your daily goal to one in the morning and one in the evening.
Dana said in her research that the more glimmers we find, the easier they are to find and it can result in a massive shift in how you go about your day-to-day life.
“What we’ve discovered is as you begin to see a glimmer, you begin to look for more,” she said. “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.”
If the world of glimmers is super important to you, you can even have a “glimmer journal” where you write down all the things that made you happy that day or week.
The positive social media trend is a great daily ritual for people of all ages, it’s free, simple and is easier than ordering a cup of coffee, so next time something makes you smile, why not acknowledge it as a glimmer?
Lillie Rohan is an Auckland-based reporter covering lifestyle and entertainment stories who joined the Herald in 2020. She specialises in all things relationships and dating, great Taylor Swift ticket wars and TV shows you simply cannot miss out on.