Know your Glimmers
“ every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks”
– John Muir
Last week, we discussed in our article, the truth about ‘triggers. The Truth About Triggers (resilientpractice.co.uk)
This is a commonly used term that refers to external events that are prone to provoke negative cognitive behavioural cycles within us – thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. They are perceived as negative experiences. In fact, they are just experiences, but we will describe them as negative if our responses to them are not favourable.
This week we would like to discuss the opposite experience to responding to a ‘trigger’ – responding to a ‘glimmer.’
The concept of the ’glimmer’ was outlined by Deb Dana, a clinical social worker and expert in Polyvagal theory and complex trauma in her 2018 book ‘The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy.’
According to Wikipedia, polyvagal theory is defined as ‘a collection of unproven, evolutionary, neuroscientific, and psychological constructs pertaining to the role of the vagus nerve in emotion regulation, social connection, and fear response,’ introduced in 1994 by Stephen Porges, a behavioural neuroscientist.
According to Deb Dana, ‘glimmers’ are ‘’small moments when our biology is in a place of connection or regulation, which cues our nervous system to feel safe or calm.”
This means that, in contrast to the unpleasant body sensations we experience when we have been ‘triggered’ which are caused by chemical changes associated with the fight/flight response, when we respond to a ‘glimmer’ (which could present as an external experience, or an internal thought process,) we experience the pleasant body sensations associated with positive body chemistry. Just as it is widely accepted that consistently increased levels of adrenaline and cortisol which are associated with fight/flight are harmful to us, there is a growing body of experts in psychotherapy who are seeking to encourage influencing of the body in a positive way to improve mental wellbeing.
Put simply, glimmers are moments or experiences in life which evoke calm, comfort, pleasure or joy and have the power to positively influence how we think, feel, and behave, in turn and indirectly affecting those around us and even the environment itself.
Examples of ‘glimmers’ might include:
Eating your favourite treat
An intimate conversation
Caring for a pet
Tending to your garden
Experiencing the beautiful scent of flowers
Receiving an unexpected message from a loved one
Giving and receiving a gift
Listening to your favourite music
Looking at photographs
Playing a game
Paddling in the sea
Walking in nature
Listening to birdsong
Laughing at a joke
Sharing a confidence
Looking at the stars
Becoming conscious of our ‘glimmers’ can allow us to take further positive action in several ways.
It can encourage us to press pause, savour the moment and truly allow ourselves to become immersed in the positive sensations that rise from the emotions evoked.
It can allow us to bring regular, repetitive ‘glimmer’ moments into our awareness so that we can adjust our circumstances to attract more of the same, thereby enhancing and intensifying the favourable body chemistry involved.
It can allow us to offer up some conscious gratitude for those moments in life that we might otherwise take for granted. Regularly practising gratitude is one of the most easily accessible evidence-based ways to boost our mental health. Thank You (resilientpractice.co.uk)
Set the intention to build a list of your own personal glimmers through experience.
Cultivate the habit of regularly stepping into the shoes of your Observer Self. This is the part of you who is able to report what you are thinking, feeling or doing at any time but is not involved in the process. It simply behaves as the Witness to what is going on with you.
Agree with yourself to allow your Observer Self to move you into consciousness during those moments when you are provoked into joy, calm, comfort or pleasure.
Let it be like the ringing of a bell.
When you notice these moments in this way press pause.
Move into a place of allowing. Let yourself truly feel the positive emotions. Where do they express themselves in your body? Can you name them? Stay in your body and out of your head. This means invoking awareness over thought. It protects us from adding meaning to the situation and allows us to authentically connect with what is coming up for us. Let the experience be a kinaesthetic one. Let it be intensified.
On recognising ‘glimmers,’ seek to attract more of them into your life. Ask yourself the following questions: What were the circumstances that lead to the appearance of this ‘glimmer?’ Was it in connection with another? How can you develop that connection? Can you look towards making further similar connections? Was it a sensory experience? What was its nature? Visual? Auditory? Kinaesthetic? Olfactory? Did it invoke a pleasant thought or memory? What do you think it was about the experience that made it special? How can you introduce more experiences of a similar nature?
On cultivating the habit of recognising these moments, set the intention to also invoke gratitude. Gratitude itself is conducive to good body chemistry. It expresses itself within your body as emotion, and consequently lends us to more positive thought processes and behaviour followed by favourable outcomes.
The path towards enlightenment is rich with experiences. Let yourself drink them in!
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