The opposite of triggers: They’re ‘glimmers’ and they calm you down

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I have just returned from a week at the happiest place on the planet. No, not DisneyWorld (far too many E numbers, queues, and 360 degree loops on a rollercoaster), but The Body Camp: a sort of holistic wellness retreat in Mallorca.

Ten years ago, if you’d said the words “holistic wellness retreat” to me I would have run to the pub screaming in horror and demanding a very large shot of tequila, pronto. But times change, thank goodness, and somehow in the intervening decade I have gone from being an alcoholic flibbertigibbet to a sober one with a passion for doing crazy physical challenges. This is in no small part because of The Body Camp, which I first visited in 2016.

Going for a walk can be a wonderful thing for your mental health. It can be a ‘glimmer’ – the opposite of a trigger.Credit: iStock

A week of doing push-ups in fancy dress and boxing while wearing a sombrero showed me that exercise could be fun. This is my sixth (!) visit, and it is that “f” word that keeps me coming back. Even the most miserable of souls would find their spirits uplifted and their attitudes changed after a few days of being told that your muscles aren’t feeling sore – they’re feeling sexy. I have returned with a smile on my face and hope in my heart, and it is this feeling as much as anything else that I keep coming back for.

The Body Camp is one of my “glimmers”. If you’ve never heard of a glimmer, perhaps that’s because you’ve spent too much time focusing on your triggers – the things that make you angry, stressed and anxious. Put simply, a glimmer is the opposite of a trigger. It is a thing that makes you feel safe, calm and regulated. A thing that evokes joy, laughter, gratitude, and all those other glorious feelings that we seem to be in such short supply of nowadays.

Glimmers are currently big on social media, where Dr Nicole LePera, a psychologist with 6.6 million followers, has explained them as “moments when our nervous system is grounded, and we are fully at peace inside our body”. She adds that glimmers “send cues to our nervous system that we are safe and at one with ourself and the collective consciousness. You’ll know when you’re experiencing a glimmer when you feel fully at ease, hopeful and as if life has meaning.”

A glimmer could be getting out in nature, going for a walk, or calling your best friend. It’s switching the radio or the television off when the debate starts to get heated, and instead choosing to go outside and do a bit of gardening. It’s only reading the things you love, rather than sitting and getting riled up by writers you hate. “In order to experience glimmers,” explains Dr LePera, “we have to consciously seek them. We need to find moments to allow them to happen.”

Reading a good book, an actual book, can be another glimmer that helps you feel calmer.Credit: iStock

And yet we live in a society where people seem only to focus on their triggers. If you work with people under the age of 40, the chances are you’ve heard one of them complain about something that “triggers them” – you may even have found yourself using the phrase yourself.

I recently worked on a project with a 21-year-old who found everything so triggering it was a wonder she got anything done at all – in fact, she couldn’t, and shortly after signing on to the project, she signed off, saying that the workload was “triggering” for her mental health. I felt profoundly sorry for her. It was a fun project, hard work but rewarding, and full of connection with brilliant people. And yet she never got to feel that sense of reward. She was so obsessed with avoiding her triggers that she was unable to see any of her glimmers.

In fairness to this girl, it’s hard to prioritise glimmers over triggers, what with 24-hour news and the endless compare-and-despair of social media. Within moments of leaving my retreat, I felt my triggers being spiked – traffic on the motorway, delays at the airport, 876 emails from work asking when I could meet 53,000 different deadlines.

So I’ve made a list of my glimmers, not all of which involve going on holiday for a week. Currently they are: listening to any song written by Lin-Manuel Miranda; reading any book written by Katherine Heiny; swimming in the pool; playing padel tennis with my husband and daughter on a Sunday afternoon. What’s on your list of glimmers? I’d love to hear them.

This article originally appeared in the London Telegraph.

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