An Achievable Resolution? Look for Glimmers in 2024

While I am by no means against the idea of making New Year’s resolutions, for the past few years – really, since I became a mother – I simply haven’t made any.

At first, in the thick of the fourth trimester, I just did not have it in me to try and make positive changes. I don’t think I even knew it was NYE! After that? Perhaps I have no real excuse. I would love to lose more of the weight I’ve gained since I had my son at the end of 2020. I’d like to get back to going to yoga regularly, or find time for the gym, or commit to reading a book per month. Or maybe I could walk 10,000 steps per day again, drink less coffee (ha!) and more water, or learn a language. You get the picture: all around self improvement, but in reality, all of these are the kind of good, positive (though hard) changes that I should commit to making daily, rather than simply because it’s January 1st.

Unfortunately, our desire to make outlandish resolutions means that many of us have already broken them by the time February rolls around. This isn’t surprising when you think that most New Year’s resolutions focus on lack – depriving ourselves of or removing something from our lives at a time when it’s cold, dark, and there isn’t really a great deal going on to look forward to. We want to lose weight and get in shape at the exact moment when the weather is telling us to stay inside and eat queso. Even saying “yes” to more things can be a challenge – sure, taking a new class or learning a new skill is great to begin with, but when it comes to showing up week after week, month after month… well, no wonder so many of us feel we let ourselves down a few months in.

Focusing on my mental health – perhaps even more than aspects of my physical health that I’d like to improve – has been a really important focus for me since becoming a mother. It’s been a hard season, peppered with other personal challenges, and I’ve really had to focus on finding the positives to keep me going. For that reason, I’ve decided that 2024 will be my year of glimmers – and I invite you to look for them, too.

What are Glimmers?

Most of us know about triggers, but we are still learning about their polar opposite. Where triggers elicit a negative reaction – small reminders of previous traumatic experiences, anxieties, or moments of anger – glimmers offer an unexpected bright spot of positivity in your day. It could be a fleeting event, reminder, or sensory experience that leaves you with a feeling of joy, peace, or happiness – or it could spark a sense of deep ease, relaxation, connection, or safety. Just as triggers need only be indirectly or superficially related to an earlier incident, glimmers are your brain’s way of quickly checking in and offering a reminder that the world is OK.

More than simply putting a smile on our face, glimmers actually cue our nervous system to feel safe and calm.

Our understanding of glimmers is still growing – in fact, the term was only coined in 2018 by Deb Dana, a clinical social worker, in her book “The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy.” She reminds us that the glimmers that make us feel joy, safety, or connection aren’t great, expansive experiences, but “micro moments that begin to shape our system in very gentle ways.”

They are the kind of experiences we have every day, and that is what makes glimmers beautiful. When I asked the ACM Team about their glimmers, I had a whole host of responses that focused on all five senses.

  • opening the sunroof on a beautiful day
  • watching flames dance in the fireplace or a campfire
  • street lights coming on and being reminded of the childhood need to rush home
  • when my kids come home with an empty lunchbox
  • the smell of a loved one
  • drinking hot coffee on the porch in the morning
  • hearing leaves rustle as they fall from the tree

A highlight in my day is the way my son puts his arms around my neck as we talk about our day at bedtime, and they go slack as he falls asleep. A less frequent glimmer is receiving a package from home containing pajamas, clothes or sweaters, and finding that my son smells like my parent’s house when I give him a hug. Whatever sparks it, “You feel something happen inside,” says Dana. “There’s an energy that happens around a glimmer, and then your brain then marks it as well.”

These sensory experiences are the bright spots that shape our days, our systems, and our relationships. Some may remind us of childhood – a time when we felt less burdened, safer – or offer us a moment of connection with someone we love. They might remind us of a person we have lost, making them feel close for a moment, or of a time or place that we have moved past. They can take us back to a place of comfort and love, or they can be a bright spot reminding us that the everyday work of mothering is paying off… that we are raising good, thoughtful, and joyful children who will grow to be happily and fulfilled adults. One of the ACM team said that she experienced joy recently when one of her sons went and got a drink of water because he was thirsty, and brought one for his brother because he thought he might be thirsty too.

Looking for Glimmers

Finding these moments of joy, peace and safety isn’t too hard, thankfully (unlike most New Year’s resolutions!). Think about the moments in your everyday life – even if they may not be every single day – that make you feel strongly, then take note of those glimmers that take you off guard. What did it make you feel? What does it remind you of? Is it a repeatable event? Recognizing these small, positive moments is a huge step to seeing the positives in life – which is good for our physical and mental health.

Once you begin to notice your glimmers, you’ll start to see more. “It’s just what we do… and we then delight in finding them,” says Dana. “That’s your nervous system beginning to shape toward the patterns of connection that are inherently waiting in there to be deepened and brought alive.”

While glimmers may just be a fleeting moment, identifying and enjoying them can have an incredible impact on your outlook. And starting the new year with my eyes fixed on the positives – looking for those little moments of joy and connection whether it’s in motherhood, friendship, work, and life – is definitely something I can get behind.

Happy New Year!

Natalie is a proud Brit, but moved to Texas at the end of 2017 to be with her husband, a native San Antonian. Their son was born in late October 2020, so her entire experience of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum has been under the cloud of Covid-19. She spent the frivolous years of her early 20s pursuing a PhD in Renaissance history, living in Venice, Italy, and teaching students. She pivoted into editing when she moved to the US, but currently has her academic pursuits on hold while she focuses on her son. Despite being in San Antonio for a few years now, she still considers herself a newbie. She loves to find out more about the history and culture of the city, explore new places, and find local businesses to support. A fastidious researcher and lover of lists, she’s always excited to share her finds and experiences with others. Favorite Restaurant: Dough Favorite Landmark: World’s Largest Cowboy Boots Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Riverwalk Christmas Lights