I began my first coaching session in January 2013 with the question, “What’s new-and-good?”[1]

Since then, this question—What’s new and good?—has become an integral part of my life. I’ve started nearly every session since then with the same question, and most nights at the dinner table, my son, my partner, and I—and our friends when they join us—take turns asking each other what’s new and good.

I invite you to try asking yourself this question now, and think of something both new and good.

Now, you might think of something immediately. And if so, that’s awesome. I invite you to see if you can notice any pleasant feelings that arise in your body when you think of this thing that’s new and good.

Or, you might discover that it takes a moment to find an answer. In dominant culture, we have a tendency to focus on what’s hurting and what’s not working well. And those of us who are dedicated to fighting for justice and collective wellbeing often particularly struggle to take in the good around us.

You might also notice that immediately after you come up with a thought about what’s new and good, you follow it up with a caveat or a dismissal, that sound something like yeah that’s all right and all, but it would be even better if xyz happened or yeah, I did that thing but I still need to do all these other things too. It’s as if you were swatting away your joy.

In future episodes, we’ll talk about why we struggle to fully savor the goodness around us. But today, I want to offer a practice to help you start shifting your attention toward detecting what is new and good.

I call this practice Tracking Glimmers.

Social worker Deb Dana coined the term glimmers as a positive counterpart to the more commonly-used word triggers.

People often use the word triggers to refer to a cue—something we see, hear, smell, taste, touch, or think—that prompts feelings of stress or fear.

In contrast, glimmers are cues that prompt feelings of safety, wellbeing, delight, accomplishment, and other pleasant feelings.

They’re quick sparks of the feelings we want to feel, tiny indications that our needs are being met, moments that nourish our energy, bring us delight, or move us closer toward our goals.

Although there are so many factors that impact our ability to feel joy, many of which are outside our control, the one that we have the most control over—and which can have a really potent impact—is where we put our attention.

When we track glimmers, we get curious and search for cues of what brings us delight and what helps us meet our needs. When we track glimmers, we follow the tracks of our joy like a huntress, a detective, or a search and rescue team.

And when we learn what fills our cup through this practice, we’re far more likely to make choices that fuel our tank for the long haul. When we study what helps us  meet our needs, we train our brains to detect opportunities to meet our needs that we may have otherwise overlooked and we grow our capacity to imagine and bring forth a world in which all peoples’ needs are met.

With this in mind, I invite you to get a glimmer journal. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I prefer cheap Mead notebooks because I can be messy in them.

Once you have your journal, place it next to your bed, and write down glimmers from the day before you go to bed . Here are some questions you might ask:

  1. What brought me a sense of safety, wellbeing, delight, or accomplishment today?
  2. What helped me meet my needs?
  3. What moved me closer to accomplishing my goals?
  4. Who or what am I grateful for?
  5. Who might I want to say thank you to?

Then, pay attention to how tracking glimmers  makes you feel.

If you have a hard time thinking of anything positive, experiment with lowering your bar. New and good don’t not mean brand new and extraordinary. Instead of looking for something that’s a ten on a scale on which zero is no feeling and ten is ecstasy, look for a one, a two, or even a point-five.

Each time we drink a glass of water, it is new and good. Each breath is new and good. Each heartbeat is new and good. Each sunrise is new and good. Just because something good has already happened before doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve our praise. It does. Simply noticing what is good is new and good.

Now, I’ll share that as someone who has a tendency to spend a lot of time up in my head, go through the world thinking about the future, and kind of vacate the present moment, I still struggle at times to notice the glimmers around me.

I’ve learned to rely on another practice for bringing my attention back to the present moment, soothing the anxiety in my body, and noticing the deliciousness that is around me. This practice is called Orienting, and I consider it a gateway practice for Tracking Glimmers.

Orienting comes from the field of somatic trauma therapy and can be powerful for settling the nervous system. And it’s pretty simple. In this practice, you notice as many details of your external environment as you can, noticing what you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.

I invite you to try this out. Look around the space that you’re in right now, and notice as many details as you can. Textures. Colors. Shapes. Whatever you are drawn to. Let your eyes go wherever they want to go, and let your head move gently. You may or may not think of what you see and sense as glimmers. That’s okay. Simply notice the details around you.

As you go, notice what you feel. If you start to feel overwhelmed, which can happen if we hold a lot of unhealed trauma, stop the practice and do something else that feels better to you. And if you like what you feel, take it in—lingering in the moment a little bit more.

I call the Orienting practice a gateway to Tracking Glimmers because the more we bring our attention to our environment in the present moment, the more likely we are to notice beauty around us.


[1] I first learned to ask this question in my health coach training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

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