In a world full of triggers, people are now looking for glimmers. A new social media trend is all about shifting focus from big moments of happiness to smaller ones; the ones that come by fleetingly but leave you with a sense of calm and joy. If you ever paused to watch the sunset, listened to a dreamy song, and felt the happiness of a dog rolling around on the grass, then welcome to the world of glimmers.
Coined by Deb Dana, a licensed clinical social worker based in Australia, who in her 2018 book, The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy, defined glimmers as moments that help regulate the body, cueing the nervous system to feel safe or calm. "We're not talking great, big, expansive experiences of joy or safety or connection," she said, as reported by USA Today. "These are micro-moments that begin to shape our system in very gentle ways." The term has since been picked up, first by TikTok and then by other social media platforms.
But does it have any real impact on mental well-being? Bengaluru-based psychologist Natasha Vijay says they do. “They are meant to help shift perspective when dealing with overwhelming situations. We typically look for big shifts to indicate that we are making progress or that the situation is improving. But being able to notice these small sparks throughout the day helps our nervous system regulate better,” she says.
Glimmers are all around; it comes down to recognising them. They are often captured in photos or art, without them being called glimmers. For instance, the 2022 exhibition, Fleeting Moments of Joy at Sheldon Art Museum in Nebraska, United States used art to capture the speckles of happiness that often pass us by. The works by artists such as Berenice Abbott, Harold Edgerton and Jacob Hashimoto captured everyday moments such as flying a kite, kids playing with paper boats, a car moving towards a rainbow, and a picture of the sky tucked in a wallet. These are all scenes that people have seen or been part of but not paid attention to or intentionally marked as a feeling of peace or contentment.
“Glimmers differ for everyone - could be the familiar smell of your coffee in the morning or a simple part of your routine that you enjoy, like walking your dogs,” says Vijay.
The habit of looking for glimmers as a way to intentionally include moments of joy in their life is becoming increasingly popular. The trend seems to indicate a shift in the idea of happiness, from the big moments to smaller and scattered ones that you can feel every day. This shift also shows why it is important to not think of joy as only a long-term goal but also as a space that one holds daily.
“I think it's important that the shift is happening, especially when a lot of people feel like only big lifestyle milestones can be celebrated and shared publicly. It is an intentional practice that gently leads you to your present, as opposed to being consumed with the past or the future. The big moments will always have their place as a default but allowing ourselves to access joy and serenity in pockets throughout the day can have long-term implications for how we handle chaos as well,” Vijay explains. Some of her favourite glimmers include basking in the presence of a large tree outside her balcony or watching her dogs sleep.
From dopamine decor to glimmers, the recent trends point toward people consciously finding ways of accessing joy. It seems that the chaos of the world has triggered a fight-or-flight response and people have their hands up in the air, trying to figure out how to find a sense of calmness, peace and happiness, even if fleetingly.
A lot of people are still grappling with a post-pandemic world and that shift in reality has meant more chaos in general, says Vijay. “Being able to name concepts like glimmer or dopamine decor, allows people to access a vocabulary that lets them find joy in the simple and mundane everyday things that we may sometimes take for granted,” she adds.
However, Vijay points out that the concept of glimmer is not entirely new. The Scandinavian philosophy of Hygge is a good example of this idea. The term Hygge comes from the sixteenth-century Norwegian term, hugga, meaning “to comfort” or “to console”, according to The New Yorker. Hygge refers to engaging in an activity that is pleasant and soothing and enjoying the comfort of everyday things like spending an evening with friends.
Be it Hygge or glimmers, these concepts show that people are constantly looking to soak in a sense of calmness, warmth, and joy in a world that rewards hustle and bustle.