Trends come and go. From fashion to music, dating to interior design, change is everywhere. Language is one area that constantly evolves, although we may not even realise it. Today, “spilling tea” is no longer knocking over a hot beverage (rather, sharing gossip) and “sick” means “good” (keep up!). And have you noticed how everyone is “triggered” these days?

Back in the 1930s, triggers and “being triggered” referred to “suffering from shell shock”, but in recent years a trigger describes something that causes emotional distress. In 2024, triggers are everywhere: on TV, in books, at restaurants that have run out of Chardonnay.
For basic survival, it’s natural as humans to be scanning the world for potential causes of distress, but it’s as if we’ve become perpetually finely tuned to anguish. This is why the latest trend of “glimmers” is welcome relief.

“Glimmers are the opposite of triggers whereby they encapsulate unexpected positive emotional reactions – think joy, peace, happiness and contentment from a small daily event,” explains Ho Shee Wai, Director and Registered Psychologist at The Councelling Place ( “Glimmers have become popular because they’re simple, easy to implement in everyday life and provide immediate effects,” she says.

Calmness & contentment

The idea of tiny, modest happenings causing comfort first came to the fore thanks to Marie Kondo whose organisational tips sparked joy globally – glimmers create the same feeling.
The first sip of coffee in the morning, hugging loved ones, savouring a spoonful of your favourite ice cream, the smell of a tropical rainstorm – these are all examples of glimmers. The good news is that glimmers have a similar positive effect on our mental health as big, blow-out moments, yet they’re more achievable because we can actively choose to put them into our daily schedule.

“Glimmers boost our mental health by allowing us to counter our natural tendency to focus on negativities,” explains Shee Wai. “They provide stress relieving effects not only mentally, but physically as they activate our parasympathetic nervous system which produces feelings of calm. Contrary to triggers, glimmers create a sense of hope which improves resilience, helps us to overcome challenges and gives meaning to difficult times in our life.”
Conversely, experiencing triggers causes our sympathetic nervous systems to generate sensations of anger, anxiety and depression. What’s more, research by Dr Stephen Porges, founder of the Polyvagal Theory (, found that both the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system cannot be activated concurrently – this means that when you experience glimmers, you cannot be exposed to triggers at the same time. (Sounds like a result to us!).

Through his findings, Dr Porges introduced the term “neuroception” which is the name for when our subconscious mind scans our surroundings for signs of security.
When our neuroceptive system tunes into peace and calm, it essentially activates a safety circuit in our nervous system which sets off a cascade of permanent, positive changes within our biology. Continues Shee Wai, “While some people report an actual physical spark upon encountering glimmers, others enjoy more gentle feelings of harmony and serenity. Studies show that glimmers escalate the sensations of being able to breathe easier and perpetuate a productive and positive energy within us.”

With so much joy and physical and mental support within us, it makes sense to start accessing our glimmers immediately. But how? Read the panel on the right for how to gain access. Enjoy!

Tune Into Your Glimmers
To find joy in a stressful world, Shee Wai suggests trying the following, either in steps or as standalone exercises.

  1. Create a safe space
    Glimmers are related to feelings of safety. Create internal safety first by removing all judgment of yourself, and acknowledging and accepting all your feelings as facts in that moment. Take four deep breaths in, and slowly release the breath with a count of four. Repeat five times. Doing so will shift your brain away from fear towards a more centered state.
  2. Use word association
    Write down when you’ve experienced feelings of happiness, awe, joy, peace and calmness before. Reflect on where the feelings show up in your body and what was happening when you felt them. Alternatively, write down a list of what makes your heart smile. You’re accessing past experiences to give you an indication of what your glimmers might be.
  3. Look around you
    Look for your glimmers all around you: your cat purring, shiny bubbles, a new bud sprouting on your balcony, etc. Use your five senses. It may not be a new thing you’re focusing on – this exercise is for you to look at familiar things with new eyes/senses.
  4. Schedule a glimmer hunt
    Set aside time in your day, or at least once a week, to go on a glimmer hunt. Incorporating this in your routine will help to train your brain to consciously notice the moments and things that bring small shots of happiness.
  5. Do something new
    Our brain dislikes familiarity and boredom, so try to find something new to do regularly, whether that be walking home a different way, starting Wordle, or chatting to a stranger in your condo. This will allow you to experience the excitement of something new and possibly bring you glimmers.
  6. Think about love
    Glimmers can be people and places too. Thinking of loved ones, a favourite holiday destination, or looking at photos or videos can also provide that fuzzy feeling. The best thing to do however, is to reach out and connect with those you treasure directly.

My Daily Sparks

Where do you find yours?

“Sweet morning cuddles with my boys”

“My morning coffee – two minutes to relax over a good flat white”

“Getting out in the waka with my whānau and catching the orange glow from the setting sun bouncing off the high-rise buildings of MBFC. Pure magic every time!

“Listening to kiddos laughing at the nearby playground. Their joy is so addictive I break out into a smile too”

“Facetime with my family”