We all have a lot to be thankful for, but gratitude can sometimes feel unapproachable. It’s often preached as a band-aid antidote for a lot of suffering in the world. Feeling anxious? Find gratitude. Feeling scared? Find gratitude. Feeling alone? Find gratitude. Listing all the things I’m grateful for can even induce anxiety for me, reminding me of all the things that can still be taken away.
Forcing gratitude on situations that feel hard is a recipe for shame. We gaslight our own experiences because someone somewhere lead us to believe that we need to pretend that our hard isn’t hard. “I should just be thankful, it could be so much worse”, “this isn’t even that bad, why do I feel so upset?”
In neuroscience and nervous system health, there’s a different approach to gratitude that’s more grounded in our day-to-day experience. They’re called ‘glimmers’. Moments where we have homeostasis when our nervous system is stable and in balance.
No matter what we’re going through, our days will always have moments, maybe even just micro-moments, where we feel okay, safe, grounded, present, etc. Moments where there's a glimpse of ease and good.
Glimmers throughout my day can look like having a call with a challenging colleague and not crying when I get off the phone. Going to the grocery store at the busiest time of day and being able to find a parking spot. Crossing something off my to do list. A smile from my corgi. And some days my only glimmer is that I made it through the day.
My good friend and I have a “glimmers practice”. At the end of each day, we both report at least one moment from the day that was okay, maybe even good. Some days one of us will have multiple glimmers to report, and some days one of us will say “today was really hard but I took the time to eat an actual meal and I’m proud of myself for that”. When we started doing this a few months ago, we’d both have to scramble, mentally scrolling through the day for something to say. But now we intentionally look for these moments as we go through our days and that little shift has made a big impact.
Glimmers aren’t about bypassing the hard or ignoring how we feel. Glimmers incorporate the “and”: “I feel so alone AND… damn, that sunset was pretty”.
Take a big breath when you notice a glimmer. Like everything, the little things add up. When we intentionally notice them, we start to rewire our neuro-circuitry and begin to look for them more naturally, and then one day, we’ll notice the things that are going well as easily as we notice the things that aren’t.
The body leads the mind.
Cheers to better living -