I’ve managed to cultivate a knack for finding four-leaf clovers over the years. We have a number of clover patches all around our farm where, if you’re looking, you can find at least one four-leaf clover; my daily record so far is 22. I’ve even found a couple of six-leaf clovers while going about my day. It’s safe to say that every new four-leaf clover I find brings me just as much joy as the one I found before it.

Olson brittany
Dairy Farmer / Freelance Writer
Brittany Olson is a dairy farmer and freelance writer from Chetek, Wisconsin. She and her husband...

Whether or not you believe in the folklore surrounding those lucky little legumes, four-leaf clovers and many other little things too numerous to count have brought a lot of joy and wonder to people for time immemorial.

Even if all it does is serve as a reminder to pause and take in the magic of the mundane, taking time to stop and smell the proverbial roses may have some powerful mental health benefits.

Those fleeting and sparkly moments of delight and happiness, known as glimmers, are made possible simply by getting out of bed and going about our day. The opposite of triggers – things that offend and upset us – glimmers are simply moments in time where we might feel joyful, happy, at ease or even just a sense of contentment in a world otherwise gone off its rocker.

Glimmers don’t necessarily have to look like finding four-leaf clovers, and they might look and feel different from person to person and even sense to sense, too.


Some people might hear a glimmer in the soft clinking of headlocks as cows belly up to a manger full of TMR, the hum of a silo unloader or vacuum pump.

Others might notice a glimmer in the smell of fresh-cut first-crop hay, a wave from another driver on the road or a smiling baby at the grocery store.

It turns out there’s some science behind glimmers, as well. Licensed clinical social worker Deb Dana first described glimmers in her 2018 book, The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy, when writing about brief moments when our minds and bodies are in co-regulation.

In a March 2022 interview with USA Today, Dana said, “We’re not talking great big expansive experiences of joy or safety or connection. These are micro-moments that begin to shape our system in very gentle ways.”

Polyvagal theory, coined in 1995 by behavioral neuroscientist Stephen Porges, states that our autonomic nervous systems are constantly scanning for threats through a process known as neuroception and facilitated by our vagus nerve.

When we are triggered, whether by a legitimate threat or a perceived one, our bodies may send us into fight or flight to escape, but glimmers give us an opportunity to move ourselves into feelings of safety and co-regulation.

Co-regulation gives the nod to our nervous systems to feel safe and at peace. While our brains and thought patterns are elastic, it takes effort to shift them from negative to positive, and glimmers are just powerful enough to nudge the needle.

Our brains are hardwired to look for threats and hazards on the horizon as a means of keeping us safe from predators, but over time this hypervigilance can become maladaptive and leave us more at risk of developing anxiety and depression in addition to other chronic diseases.

On the farm, this might look like obsessively watching what markets are doing or refreshing our weather apps every 20 minutes to see if a chance of rain is in the forecast. While helpful in the short term for maintaining an illusion of reassurance or certainty, always being on the lookout for what lies ahead takes away valuable energy we can focus on the here and now – and opportunities for joy throughout the day.

However, when we see or feel a glimmer, the emotions we feel tell our bodies we are safe and at ease. Like all things worth doing, it takes practice.

Spotting a glimmer in the wild is one thing, but it’s another thing to nurture a habit of looking for them and holding on to the feelings they bring. By noticing glimmers and beginning to look for more, we can shape our nervous systems toward pathways of happiness and connection even when times are hard or bad.

Sure, four-leaf clovers may tell a tale of something good to come, but maybe that something good is the four-leaf clover itself. In a fast-paced and dynamic world, glimmers allow us to show up and be where our feet are when our minds are otherwise a million miles away and trying to stay one step ahead of the rest.

At any rate, even when milk prices aren’t enough to keep up with the bills and the world at the end of the driveway has gone somewhere hot and arid in a handbasket, glimmers are a reminder that life is beautiful and worth living.

This year, I hope I find as many glimmers as I do four-leaf clovers. Actually, I hope I find more.

I hope you do, too.