Glimmers: Stop Doomscrolling and Focus on the Positive

We all want to connect with the world and with each other. We all want to be informed. The problem is, when you can’t stop doomscrolling, the daily news can make humanity seem more bad than good.

Over the past few years, you’ve read quite a bit on social media about all sorts of negative events. We’ve experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise and fall of cryptocurrency, and even a few eerie small-town crimes, reminding us that anything can happen, anywhere. Getting caught up in an unfortunate pattern of looking for these events on social media is called doomscrolling.

We need to stop doomscrolling!

You’ve probably heard this word a few times before now. In fact, doomscrolling has become such a common pastime that Oxford Dictionary added it to their list of words in 2020. Oxford defines the word as “the action of compulsively scrolling through social media or news feeds which relate bad news.”

Obviously, the news isn’t always pretty. But do we have to put a microscope on the bad? Is there a way to stay informed without becoming depressed?

Why do we doomscroll?

Right now, there’s a lot to fear and grieve. But when you can’t pull yourself away from the staggering COVID-19 statistics or heart-wrenching images from Ukraine, you probably wonder, “Why am I subjecting myself to such negativity?”

1. To get answers

We compulsively read terrible news during times of uncertainty, looking for answers. But reading so much doom and gloom only increases your feeling of uncertainty. Doomscrolling makes you feel vulnerable, at-risk and threatened.

2. To prepare for the worst

Much of the compulsion to doomscroll comes from a survival instinct. Feeling vulnerable makes you want to prepare for the worst. Realistically, though, you aren’t living in the wilderness at the bottom of the food chain. Even though everything is most likely going to be alright, doomscrolling over-activates your survival instincts.

3. To be surprised

Like a gambler, you might be motivated by the desire to win—to luck out and discover some wonderful news to compensate for the stress of reading the bad. But usually, this leads to exposure to even more negative news and feeling worse than when you started.

Rest assured, doomscrolling isn’t entirely masochistic. You want to feel good, but you’re pursuing positivity the wrong way. You seek good news by overwhelming yourself with bad, and you yearn for connection by commiserating with suffering. (For actual good news, check out this weekly email newsletter from CNN.)

But you don’t have to do this. Instead, turn your attention to glimmers.

What are glimmers?

Glimmer is a fairly new term, but we think the concept is worth popularizing. In her work on complex trauma, licensed social worker Deb Dana first used glimmers to refer to stimuli that are the opposite of triggers.

Whereas triggers cause feelings of isolation, fear and anxiety, glimmers bring feelings of connection, safety and peace.

Like doomscrolling, focusing on glimmers is motivated by the desire to connect and feel confident. The difference is, concentrating on glimmers might actually get you there.

Try focusing on glimmers instead when you feel compelled to doomscroll through tragic news stories or go down a spiral of negative social media comments. Glimmers include

  • articles on positive topics,
  • art exhibit overviews,
  • breathtaking photos of the night sky,
  • cute cat videos on YouTube,
  • podcasts on positivity and happiness,
  • gardening tips and tricks,
  • creative new recipes, or
  • reruns of favorite movies.

You don’t have to be connected to significant world events at all times. You don’t have to be in constant prep mode for a bad situation that will probably never happen to you. Living with doomscrolling is stressful, and constantly focusing on the negative takes you out of the present.

So for the moment, enjoy your safety and security, stop doomscrolling, and seek out the glimmers that bring joy!


image credit: shutterstock/HBRH

Pete Blasi