Noticing your “glimmers” is good for your mental health, and a wonderful way to live your life
A friend once described the most wonderful benefit of learning to use a camera for the first time. She was delving into a new hobby of taking photographs with her new digital camera – a fancy one with interchangeable lenses and countless dials and buttons. She described her new hobby as bringing her a fresh, positive perspective on life. Let me explain. In her pursuit to learn, my friend started to see beauty in places she would have otherwise passed by without a second glance. She was intentionally seeking things that delighted her because she was seeing them through the lens of her camera. A broken down tractor in a field became the beautiful subject of a photograph that might some day grace the walls of her home. A group of children playing loudly transformed into an emotional record of the innocence and possibility of youth.
I’ve been seeing more examples of this practice of observing life through a different “lens” in recent literature on “glimmers.” Glimmers were first termed as such by social worker Deb Dana in her book, The Polyvagal Theory In Therapy: Engaging The Rhythm Of Regulation. Think of them as micro-moments that make us feel happier, hopeful, safe, and connected. And the best thing is, we can easily access them by looking for them.
Why should we seek out glimmers?
In a nutshell, noticing and appreciating glimmers support good mental health because they offer a “reset” to a healthier headspace when we are feeling negative or facing a difficult challenge. In a negative state, we tend to notice things that feed that feeling (think, self-fulfilling prophecy and confirmation bias), but if we can notice “micro-moments of goodness,” we have the power to turn things around by being intentional.
What can we do?
Look for your unique glimmers all around you. It might be watching your pet sleep peacefully beside your desk, or the sounds of children playing outside your window. It could be watching new flowers spring to life when the sun shines, the smell of your children when they let you get close enough for a snuggle, or, like my photographer friend, intentionally noticing how something rather plain or unappealing, in fact, exudes beauty.
When you’re feeling negative and looking for glimmers seems utterly ridiculous, try this:*
– Acknowledge what you’re feeling without judging yourself, and name it.
– Take a deep breath in through your nose, imagining you are inflating your belly with air; hold for 4 counts, then exhale everything out for 7. Repeat three times. This will help you “reset” your brain towards a more centered state, and activate your parasympathetic nervous system (the part that keeps the basic functions of your body working as they should).
– Visualize what someone who cares about you would say to you.
– Go seek your glimmers.
*Source: Perpetua Neo, Doctor of Clinical Psychology
Right now, take a few minutes to notice your glimmers and take note of how they make you feel. Remember the ones that bring you calm, warmth, and a smile. If it helps, write them down and keep them close for times you need a quick reset.