Breathing Space August 2023

by Dan Comer

What Is the Opposite of Triggers?

I have always been enamored with words and, like you, have seen the power a single word can have. I have just come across just such a word—glimmers!

In our work, we are primed to feel triggers and encouraged to know what our triggers are. Yet, we are not at all taught to know our glimmers, a term I learned from Deb Dana, a licensed clinical social worker specializing in complex trauma. According to Dana, a glimmer is a small moment when our biology is in a place of connection or regulation, which cues our nervous system to feel safe or calm.

In other words, glimmers are the opposite of triggers. Triggers are cues that signal some kind of potential threat. They give us a cue to danger and, as we know, can make us feel antsy and withdrawn, or worse. When we are triggered, our body releases stress hormones, like adrenaline or cortisol. Long-term exposure to these stress hormones is terrible for our body.

What is great about glimmers is that we’re not talking about great big earth-shattering experiences of joy (or safety or connection). Glimmers are tiny moments that begin to shape our system in very gentle ways. Who doesn’t need to feel safe, calm, and connected?

Given that our brain has the tendency to look for the bad (darn you, evolution!), glimmers are a simple way of priming it to look for the things that feels safe, connecting, and calm. So how do we do that?

How do we know what our personal glimmers might be? I suggest the same way we learn to know what our triggers are: notice how your body feels. A glimmer will give you a calm, peaceful, and joyful sense. Where or when have you noticed that? Pay attention!

I have a huge butterfly bush near my front door. Almost every day it is covered with a variety of butterflies who do not care in the least if I stop and watch them move across the bush. (One even flew into my arm this week!) I have noticed that when I take a few minutes to watch them, notice their colors and patterns and how crazily they fly around, my breath slows and a smile comes on my face. You too have these moments—all you have to do is notice them. Some examples of glimmers:

  • Being in nature
  • Petting an animal
  • Singing to yourself
  • That feeling of a warm, soft blanket
  • The smell of freshly baked bread
  • The sound of children playing in the distance
  • The first cup of coffee or tea in the morning

In the exact same way that certain sights, sounds, scents, people, or actions can trigger us, these can also be sources of glimmers as well. Glimmers will be different for each one of us. What might bring us small moments of joy may not be the same for another person. Understanding our glimmers and knowing the glimmers of others can promote not only feelings of joy and peace but also a greater sense of connectivity with those we engage with.

Make it a point in the next week to make a list of your personal glimmers, and try to incorporate at least one each day, or maybe when you most need to be in a calm place. I am interested in knowing what your personal glimmers are—let me know at

Adapted from: Jelenjev, L. (2023, March 26). Know your glimmers. Neurodiversity Education Academy.

“You feel something happen inside, there's an energy that happens around a glimmer, and your brain then marks it as well.”