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Mind and Soul

What are ‘glimmers’ and how can they help regulate your nervous system?

What are glimmers?

Are things as bad as they seem? News outlets and social media can make you believe these are the end times. This constant bombardment of negative stimuli can dysregulate your nervous system, leaving you anxious and depressed.

How can you prevent this effect without shutting yourself away from the rest of the world? One way is to tune into glimmers.

You might not notice these little blessings if you surround yourself with news of disaster. However, learning to identify the positive can shift your outlook, regulate your nervous system and make your existence happier.

Here’s a closer look at what glimmers are and how you can use them to self-regulate.

What are glimmers?

You’re probably familiar with triggers — stimuli that consciously or unconsciously remind your central nervous system of a past traumatic event. When you encounter them, they emotionally transport your nervous system to another place and time.

When you experience an acute moment of stress, your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activates, sending signals to your peripheral nervous system and adrenal glands that elevate your heart rate and prepare you for battle. As a result, you may act irrationally under the present circumstances, which can make an already tough situation worse.

It takes enormous mindfulness and often a great deal of therapy to get a handle on your triggers. Worse, the constant nervous system activation reinforces your view of the world as dismal. However, triggers have an opposite: glimmers.

Glimmers are little signs that everything is right in the world. Like triggers, they may mean nothing to others, but they can make a huge difference to you and your trauma recovery.

Glimmers take many forms, but here’s what they might look like:

  • You run into a friend who tells you about a new business opportunity after receiving unpleasant news at work
  • The perfect parking spot opens at the market and you find a cashier with no line when in a mad rush for a last-minute gift
  • You go into a workout feeling tired until your favourite song comes on and jamming to it revitalises your energy levels
  • Enjoying making a pot of tea and feeling the warmth of the tea cup as you sip on it
  • Connecting with a good friend and remembering that they made you smile.

How can glimmers regulate your nervous system?

Human beings are hardwired to pay closer attention to negative stimuli for survival. It’s more important to notice the tiger in the bushes than a gorgeous sunset if you want to stay alive, for example.

However, when your nervous system is active all the time, it starts to malfunction, like any system stressed too hard for too long. As a result of living in overdrive, you may develop severe emotional, mental and even physical ailments.

Glimmers have the opposite effect on your central nervous system — they soothe you and activate your parasympathetic nervous system. That’s the opposing force of your sympathetic nervous system or fight-flight-freeze response. It slows your heart rate, decreases respiration and sends your body the signal that all is well, and it’s time to rest and digest.

How to identify your glimmers

Identifying your glimmers gets easier when you practise mindfulness. Your first order of business is to internalise these two crucial truths:

  • You are not your thoughts
  • You are not your emotions.

You have thoughts and emotions, and one affects the other — however, you retain free will over how you respond to them. Understanding this concept is critical because you might otherwise miss your glimmers amid the negative stimuli that are so effective at making your brain sit up and take notice.

Mindfully tune into your emotions throughout the day. Notice when you feel:

  • Calm
  • Happy
  • Relaxed
  • Peaceful
  • Comfortable
  • Satisfied.

Then, examine your environment. What are you doing that makes you feel good? What sights, smells, tastes, sounds and other sensations do you detect, and what is their impact on your senses and mood?

Once you pay attention to what makes you delight in being alive, you can actively invite more glimmers into your day, pausing for a moment of gratitude each time you notice one.

How to notice more glimmers in your day

You can notice more glimmers in your day by trying these tips:

1. Tune into some comedy

Laughter has the opposite effect of a trigger — it lowers your heart rate and blood pressure after a brief spike, helping your body relax. Put on a comedy podcast or keep a collection of memes that crack you up to receive the benefits.

2. Associate with positive people

While it’s tempting to commiserate with the office Negative Nancy on how bad it all is, doing so only reinforces your view of the world as a cold, cruel place. Instead, surround yourself with people who proactively seek win-win solutions to problems.

3. Spend more time in nature

Cuddling your pets has many of the same physiological effects as laughter in calming your nervous system. So does spending time in the great outdoors, so try taking a hike with your human and furry friends.

4. Care for yourself

Even if you feel the world is against you, you can love yourself. Doing so through healthy means like eating right and getting adequate rest can make the world seem less dark. You can also practise self-care.

Using glimmers to regulate your nervous system

Trauma can dysregulate your nervous system, leaving you feeling anxious and depressed. These negative feelings grow when you encounter triggers.

Thankfully, noticing glimmers gives the opposite outcome of a trigger, and can help you in achieving a calmer nervous system while focusing on positive moments in your day-to-day life.

Hopefully the tips shared in this article will help you to notice more glimmers and celebrate the positive aspects in your life.

Mia Barnes - Writer - She Defined

Mia Barnes

This article was written by Mia Barnes.

Mia is a freelance writer and researcher who specialises in women’s health and lifestyle. Mia is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine.

Follow Mia and Body+Mind on Twitter.