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When it comes to happiness and wellbeing, sometimes it’s the little things that matter.

There are plenty of life experiences that can all but guarantee a hefty dose of happiness. These include a graduation after a successful time in school, a wedding day, the purchase of a new car or a first home, and the birth of a child. These are, however, major life events, and not things you can replicate any time you need something that will have you feeling better about life.

The good news is that you don’t have to have a baby or buy a house to experience a moment that can enhance your sense of happiness, wellbeing and balance. In fact, you can experience these sorts of moments on a much smaller scale, and you can do it many times per day. All you have to do is recognize a “glimmer” and practice a bit of active appreciation.

What Is a Glimmer?

woman smiling, holding, and looking into a mirror
(Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash)

To best understand a glimmer, let’s look first at one of the now common definitions of the word “trigger,” the third definition of which, when in its verb form, is, per the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “to cause an intense and usually negative emotional reaction in (someone).”

A glimmer is the polar opposite of a trigger; it’s something that causes a positive emotional reaction in a person, be this sensation joy, tranquility, reassurance, levity, or any combination of these and other positive feelings. The term came into use in a 2018 book, The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation written by licensed social worker Deb Dana who, per USA Today, has extensive work dealing with trauma sufferers – people who have many triggers to best and for whom glimmers can be of immense import.

In her work, as have many others in the field of mental health, she encourages people to begin to appreciate these “micro moments that begin to shape our system in very gentle ways.” You have already experienced countless glimmers in your life, the secret to making them a more active part of your life is to learn to experience them mindfully – that will help you begin to benefit from glimmers not just as they occur, but at many times thereafter as well. We’ll talk about that in a moment, but first let’s lay out a few examples of the types of glimmers we all experience to illustrate how accessible their phenomenon is for all of us.

A Few Examples of Glimmers

donuts placed in shelves
(Photo by Kenny Timmer on Unsplash)

Glimmers can come in all different shapes, but they don’t tend to come in a huge range of sizes, as it were. What unifies a glimmer is the fact that most of them are on the smaller side, as you’ll see from the forthcoming examples. This is not to reduce their import, however – ironically, by being smaller moments, they actually become more actionable, because a glimmer is quick and easy to process and appreciate.

The moment of euphoria you get when you reach the summit of a 14,000-foot mountain is one thing, but first you needed to labor your way up the peak. A glimmer, on the other hand, can come at any time. 10 great examples of glimmers include:

1. An unexpected call or a thoughtful text from a friend or a favorite family member whom you have not seen in a while.

2. A pet’s love and attention, especially when you were having a bad day.

3. A favorite song suddenly playing on the radio or a streaming service without you having entered it into a queue.

4. A sudden glimpse of a rainbow, a sunset, a sunrise, or simply a lovely view out over the water, the treetops, or even of a cityscape.

5. The taste of a favorite food at just the right moment, especially if it was a surprise of a treat, such as doughnuts in the office kitchen or a partner surprising you with a cup of coffee or a piece of chocolate.

6. A kind moment shared with a stranger, that can be as simple as a door being held open for you or a smile when you hold the door for them.

7. An olfactory sensation you love, from a whiff of salty sea air to a hint of perfume – this is all the more potent if it brings to mind happy memories.

8. Coming across a treasured object, such as a high school yearbook or a grade school trophy.

9. Hearing a favorite quote from a movie or TV show.

10. A sudden recollection of a happy or tender moment from the past.

Why Glimmers Work, in Scientific Terms

human brain
(Photo by Milad Fakurian on Unsplash)

The experience of a glimmer activates the body’s ventral vagal network, also known as the social engagement system, a part of the nervous system that helps us feel relaxed, grounded, socially connected, and safe.

And really, what better feelings are there than those? When the vagus nerves are stimulated, we feel like our best selves, if only for a moment or two, but those moments of wellness can have ripple effects that leave us feeling better long after the glimmer has passed.

Glimmers Can Help You Long After Their Moment Has Past

young couple flirting outside smiling
(Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash)

Anyone who engages regular meditation can tell you that the benefits of meditating extend well past the time spent in the practice. Mindful meditation helps you create a calm, reflective headspace from which you can draw peace and energy at any time in your life – it might be as simple as taking a few mindful breaths to help you overcome a rising sense of anger at traffic or workplace pettiness, or reciting a calming mantra several times to help you settle your mind in the face of a new and trying challenge.

Just as meditation can help you even when you’re not actively meditating, so too can glimmers be of great benefit even long after their actual experience. Think about the emotional and physiological effects of looking at a photograph of you and your friends or family sharing a wonderful moment; even if that moment was years in the past, that experience of briefly recalling and reliving it brings feeling of genuine happiness and can see your brain releasing hormones that enhance your sense of wellbeing.

Your glimmers can stay with you, and using them as a touchpoint can even create a new glimmer later on down the road.

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