Yes, You’ve Heard Of Triggers — But What About Glimmers?
These signals come in peace.
Playing with a puppy, listening to your favorite throwback song, or enjoying a good conversation with a friend are all moments that can cultivate joy and a sense of safety, helping to shift our focus to the good things in life. And there's actually an official (kind of) name for them: glimmers. "It's a pop psychology [and] accessible way to describe 'green flags' instead of 'red flags,' or signs of affirmation versus signs of doubt," says Sara Stanizai, a therapist and founder of Prospect Therapy, a private therapy practice that focuses on serving first-generation American and immigrant communities. "They are signals that you are making progress, are on the right track, or that you are safe."
In other words, glimmers serve dual purposes: They make you feel happy and safe and let you know that things are working out for you.
The reason Stanizai says glimmers help us feel good and soothe us is because they act as positive reinforcement. "Glimmers are intangible rewards for your nervous system," she says. "Think of it as a gold star for your nervous system."
Glimmers are often referred to as the opposite of a trigger. "While a trigger is a signal or a reminder of something that needs work, attention, or is even painful — for example, a weak spot in your relationship — glimmers are a signal of something that is running smoothly," Stanizai says.
One of the main benefits of looking for and paying attention to glimmers is that they shift your focus to the good already in your life. "When you decide to look for something, you will see more of it," Stanizai says. In other words, the more you're on the lookout for good signs, the more they'll stand out to you. She says glimmers serve as proof of all the good things in your life, which encourage you to keep working towards your goals. In particular, she notes that it's a great idea to notice glimmers when things are feeling tough.
Examples Of Glimmers
Suppose you feel discouraged when you notice repeated habits or patterns that don't serve you (like late-night social media scrolling or dating the wrong type of person, for instance). In that case, Stanizai says, the fact that you're now noticing them is in and of itself a glimmer. Recognizing the negative pattern is a sign of progress because it shows that it’s no longer an unconscious behavior.
What glimmers look like will differ for everyone depending on what sparks joy and cultivates a sense of safety. For Margaret Wishingrad, the CEO and co-founder of Three Wishes Cereal, shopping, and more specifically, finding a good deal, is a light-hearted glimmer she can count on. "To me, finding something I want (nay, need) at a fraction of the price sparks a weird amount of joy," she says. "If I can't physically wander the aisles of a store to clear my head, online retail therapy and sale-seeking always does the trick." And this glimmer also supports her in achieving her business goals. "I love getting a deal, and when I'm working, that translates to strong negotiating skills and landing new deals and partnerships," she says.
For jewelry designer Jennifer Meyer, a daily glimmer she looks forward to is writing her to-do list. Not only does writing the list itself create joy for her because it helps get her organized and intentional about her day, the satisfaction she gets from checking things off throughout the day is also thrilling. When it comes to glimmers, it really is about the little things. In addition to her to-do list, she also enjoys jotting down things she's grateful for. "It puts things in perspective [and] keeps me focusing on the good and all the happiness," she says.
Stanizai shares other examples of glimmers could include waking up feeling rested, the ability to laugh at something that you couldn't before, or noticing how comfortable you feel in a new relationship.
How To Create Or Identify Glimmers
While glimmers can pop up organically throughout the day, we can also intentionally create them. One way to do this is to pay attention to your nervous system. Whenever you have a quiet moment during the day, such as while waiting in line or stuck in traffic, Stanizai encourages paying attention to your body and noting if you're holding any tension. Then take a deep breath. This simple practice you can do anytime and anywhere helps regulate your nervous system making you feel safe and calm, which is exactly what glimmers are intended to do.
Scheduling time for rest is another example of creating a glimmer. "I go hang out with my kids, have a glass of wine with my girls, and go to a great dinner," Meyer says. "There's no shame in hitting the reset button. It's okay that not everything is perfect, and sometimes you just need to chill out."
Because glimmers also signal to us that we’re making progress towards our goals, we can use this to our advantage to help guide us. To do so, Stanizai recommends writing or speaking out loud the possible ways you can achieve your goal. "Writing it or speaking it is kind of like casting a spell," she says. For example, Meyer takes a similar approach regarding goal setting. "When I set out to do something, I don't look at the obstacles in the way," she says. "I set my mind to what I want, and I do whatever I need to do to make it happen. I never think that things won't work out."
Once you decide what you want and put it out there, start to pay attention to glimmers (aka proof) that pops up letting you know things are moving forward and coming together. And glimmers, in this case, can show up in different ways such as the perfect opportunities aligning or as an internal feeling. For Meyer, they often show up as gut feelings that tell her if she's on the right track. "I can literally feel things in my stomach and know what will work best for me or my company and things around me," she says, adding that when she second guesses herself that’s when she tends to run into issues. "In every way, trust your gut. You know best."