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Health

Therapist on TikTok perfectly explains 'glimmering' and how it's vital for our health

glimmering

Some important regulation going on here.

What is a glimmer? No I’m not talking about "Twilight" vampires or the princess from my favorite Netflix cartoon.

Glimmering is the opposite of a trigger. A word we’ve all become very familiar with.

Where triggers tighten our stomachs, make it hard to breath and generally signal danger (even when no danger is present), a glimmer gives us a sigh of relief, helping us to feel safe and secure. And though both terms were identified by psychologist Deb Dana in her book “The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy,” most of us have only been taught to find what triggers us in life. Because, well, we have to survive before we can thrive.

But thanks to TikTok savvy therapists such as Dr. Justine, glimmers have taken on new life and people are excited to learn about the concept. You could say that finding new ways to reclaim hope is indeed going viral.


In a video that has now been viewed over 78,000 times, Dr. Justine breaks down the glimmer basics.

@heydrjustine Glimmers✨ are the opposite of triggers. #AVrboForTogether#SoFiBreakUpChallenge#AlaskaAirCAREoke#anxietyrelief#nervoussystem#traumahealing♬ New Home - Austin Farwell

“Glimmers are anything that sparks a sense of joy, awe, or belongingness. It can be noticing the warmth of the sun, something beautiful around you, or seeing a kind face,” her caption reads.

If this sounds enticing to you, you’re not alone. One person—clearly eager to find their own sparks of joy—wrote, “ugh yes love glimmer hunting.”

Which begs the question: How can we form a glimmer hunting group?

“Purposely noticing glimmers allows you to tap into micro moments on Ventral Vagal energy (a state of groundedness and connectedness),” Dr. Justine continues.

The vagus nerve carries messages from our brain to other parts of our body. It’s what sends you into flight-or-fight mode when there’s a perceived threat. Mine happens to go on the fritz anytime I’m riding in the passenger seat. And I mean every time. My shoulders go up to my ears, everything appears to move chaotically and I can’t resist the urge to hold onto the grab handle for dear life. It doesn't matter who’s driving. It always feels like I'm careening down the fast lane toward my doom. That’s the vagus nerve, doing vagus nervy things.

However, that same nerve can stimulate a completely different sensation: calm. Yes, our bodies are quite literally a walking bundle of contradictions. But we can use that to our advantage by finding the glimmers.

The glimmers we find can be simple. A walk in nature, pet cuddles, our favorite song. Even the smallest, most fleeting moments can help activate our vagus nerve to send a signal to our body that says, “Hey, we can relax, everything is perfectly OK right now.”

And the best part is: By holding onto these feelings for at least 30 seconds, we can teach our brains to consistently retain positive thoughts. Or, as Dr. Justine puts it, “turn that glimmer into a glow.”

“This is my first time hearing this word and ima hold on tight to it,” one person commented, ready for their glow up.

Dr. Justine adds “doing this purposefully is important because humans have a negativity bias towards scanning for threats/danger (especially after trauma).”

We are already hardwired to scan for the negative. Again, survival trumps all. But after a traumatic event, our drive to protect ourselves is even more hypervigilant. And yet, safety cues are just as important as danger cues. Regulation is just as vital to our health and stimulation. Balance is often the foundation to our well-being.

“This is fascinating, scientifically supporting the old saying about stopping to smell the roses,” one person noticed.

After watching Dr. Justine’s video, people started sharing their own glimmers. Three rainbows. The smell of lavender. The cracking of creme brulee. A hit of fresh air. Small things that still managed to light folks up in a big way. This is what glimmering is all about. It was a very happy comment section.

If geeking out on science is a form of glimmering for you, you could always read Deb Dana’s book. Or you could check out Dr. Justine’s TikTok for more bite-sized information. Or hey, just go back to basics and smell the roses. There doesn’t seem to be a wrong way to glimmer. What matters is knowing it can dramatically change your mental health.

All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

I have plenty of space.

This article originally appeared on 04.09.16


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