Why we should be focusing on 'glimmers' instead of triggers.

*Glimmer warning: reading this might make you feel calm, joyful and A-okay.*

If you've heard of glimmers, lucky you. And if you haven't, strap yourself in for a cute new word that will make you soft smile like a genuinely contented person.

We've been talking about glimmers a LOT over the past few months in the Mamamia office, after Out Loud hosts Mia and Holly shared their own – and I promise you, it's a conversation you want to be having with your friends, too.

I guess... talking about glimmers is a glimmer?

But I'm getting way way ahead of myself – let's go back to the beginning. (Beglimmering? Too much? Okay, fair enough.)

Listen to Mia Freedman and Holly Waiwright's glimmers. Post continues below. 

What is a glimmer?

Friends, it's so simple, I can't even fancy it up for you. (But that just adds to the beauty of this concept.)

A glimmer is literally just the opposite of a trigger. That's it. It's that easy and I'm feeling sweeter inside already.

Glimmers are the little things that make you feel calm, give you a sense of peace, ground you in the moment, and provide you with the general overall vibe that everything is okay.

We're not talking about Big Ticket Joy – tropical holidays, best friends' weddings, scoring that promotion. Glimmers are the little things that signal to your nervous system that you can relax, you are safe; that there's no need to be alert OR alarmed. 


These micro-joys are much more commonplace than those grander events, which can be few and far between, making them accessible on a far more regular basis. 

According to Sahra O’Doherty, Psychologist and Director of the Australian Association of Psychologists, "Glimmers seem to be sensory cues that support an individual to gain a sense of safety and wellbeing. They're able to get a sense of calm or safety or peace when they might otherwise be experiencing emotional distress."

The term was coined by social worker Deb Dana, who's pretty well-known for her work in polyvagal theory (which is all about how the state of our nervous system affects how we feel in day-to-day life). And it turns these 'glimmers' have been used by psychs as a therapeutic method for a while.

"It's an interesting concept, this idea of having positive triggers – and it's a concept that describes what a lot of somatic-based or mindfulness-based psychologists would already be practising," Sahra explained.

"It's all about looking at how a person gains a sense of regulation and calm and safety within themselves. And one way to do this is by surrounding ourselves with things that we associate with calmness – nice smells, really nice textures, fidget toys – things we can then associate with being relaxed." 

AKA, glimmers.

In neurodiverse populations, she adds, "stimming or any kind of repetitive movement that can produce a sense of calm or peace. They would be the glimmers."


While common trauma 'triggers' could be things like being in a certain place where a traumatic incident happened, or smelling or seeing something that was present when a traumatic incident happened, "Glimmers very much seem to be the opposite," explains Sahra.

"So having, for instance, fresh, green grass blowing in the breeze, or watching a beautiful sunset in a particular location, can trigger a safety response – meaning a person can feel that same sense of calm whenever those things are present."

Video via TikTok/heydrjustine.

The great thing about these little moments of lightness is they're often pretty close at hand. If I think about my own personal glimmers, they're things like cuddling my dog on the couch. The smell of freshly brewed coffee or gardenia-scented candles. Waking up wrapped in my doona, not too hot and not too cold, and realising no, I don't have to get up.

"I always gravitate towards citrus essential oils, because that scent feels joyful to me," said Sahra.

Other common glimmers could be watching your favourite TV show, getting out in nature, or seeing a beautiful sunrise (or sunset, if you – like me – prefer to stay in bed for as long as you can).


How do you find your glimmers?

Now you know what glimmers are, it probably won't be too hard to identify them. Because you know what makes you feel all warm and cosy inside, right? 

But if you're still not totally sure, start paying attention to what's going on around you when you're feeling content, relaxed and at ease.

"Tap into your senses and notice what kind of smells bring you a sense of peace or calm or joy," Sahra suggested. 

"What kind of textures are you drawn to? How does it feel to pat a puppy? Do you have a particular jumper that you like to wear because it's soft and feels nice against your skin? Where do you go to read a book – where does it feel calm and safe to do those sorts of things?

"When you start to notice what you're feeling when you're in a situation in which you're tapping into your senses – and noticing what your senses are telling you – you can then recreate those experiences."

When you've got a handle on the sensory things that feel good to you and make you feel good, Sahra said, you basically have a box of sensory tools you can pull out when you need to.

And that's the story of why I will now be bringing my dog and my doona everywhere I go forever more.

Feature image: Canva.

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