Arriving home after a long day, I sit on my couch and open my laptop to spend a few minutes relaxing my body and mind. I select a recommended ASMR Darling video and start to slowly fade to a calm, dazed, almost hypnotic state. The sharp tapping tingles as it travels to my ear, a makeup brush pressed gently around the microphone produces a soft but rough vibration. From my ear it begins above, like a ghostly brain massage, and heads down towards my spine. She is whispering carefully with a gentle touch, sending positive messages. It adds a special touch of personal attention which feels directed specifically to and for me, enjoying the relaxation together.
Interest in autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) has been growing steadily since 2013 and has hit home to many due to its seemingly magical benefits. Yet there are still many who have no clue what it is or that it even exists! People enjoy watching ASMR videos, YouTube being the biggest outlet, for many different reasons such as relaxation, aid in sleeplessness, and the ‘tingle sensation’ often described as a cat purring.
My aunt, who first introduced it to me, discovered it herself when looking online for non-pharmaceutical ways to help her sleep. She struggled at work because she was tired and very unfocused. She has struggled with insomnia for many years and has dealt with ADHD since childhood. I had noticed some changes and was assuming she’d been using medications. In fact, it was ASMR that helped improve her personal and professional life and gave her some much needed sleep.
I have also reaped the many benefits ASMR has to offer including helping my own sleep issues, preparing my mind for study and work, winding down and overall calming me down in high-stress moments. ASMR has become a part of my life.
So what is it? ASMR is a sensation of tranquility that is sometimes accompanied by a tingling feeling starting at the scalp that then moves down the back of the spine. The word came from Jennifer Allen, who created a Facebook forum about it which received recognition and finally put a name to the phenomenon. It is caused by a release of endorphins leading to that calm and relaxed feeling. This release of endorphins sends a signal to the brain that is perceived as safe and trustworthy. First experiences with ASMR are usually had as children but it is not until we are older that we identify the sensation.
People gradually realized that this pleasure could be created by recording whispering, tapping and scratching on various surfaces as well as other soft and gentle noises, referred to as triggers. It has even gained popularity on Instagram where accounts record themselves cutting soap, playing with colourful slimes, and actions that are overall satisfying to the eye. The more people watch the more ideas and items the creators use to deliver that sensation. It transformed from simple tapping and whispering to a wide variety of sounds and accompanying images–the most recent being recording the consumption of food, which for me is very satisfying and feels like I’m enjoying it as well! ASMR has become an internet sensation. Now there are many well known ASMR video artists or ASMRtists who have a career because of it.
ASMR advocates claim it has many benefits, but relaxation is the biggest and most common advantage of the sensation. The relaxation caused by ASMR then leads to many other benefits as well. When calming the body, the mind has a chance to work out kinks and improve their functions, which leads to improved blood flow, improved digestion, reducing stress levels and improving your mood. People also work ASMR into their meditation practices, rely on it to improve sleep, and it lets people slow down and rest their bodies and minds. ASMR has been said to be extremely helpful to people suffering from insomnia and in a similar way helps anxiety and stress causing the user to loosen up and unwind, as well as focus, which helps users with ADD and ADHD. Not only all this, but there have been claims it even helps with physical pain, relaxes your body and muscles which aids with physical and even chronic pain.
However, many of these claims seem to lack scientific proof. For now, trust in ASMR comes down to trying it for yourself and seeing what works for you. Of course, not everyone will experience the same effect. I know many who also despise it and can’t even handle listening as it makes them uncomfortable. A Superbowl beer commercial featuring Zoe Kravitz used AMSR’s most famous triggers as an advertisement technique. Some feedback was good– myself personally loved it along with the contributing shots they captured to boost the ‘tingle’ effect–but there was still a lot of backlash, especially on twitter. It seems a big group of people are definitely not having the same positive results as others.
ASMR is a divisive phenomenon that really seems either black or white, depending on your experiences and likes, but for many it is a path into peace and relaxation. Our busy, engaged lives we are accustomed to feeling overwhelmed to where we forget the importance of quieting and relaxing our brains to give them a break. There are many different ways to go about this but AMSR might just work for you if you keep an open mind. In the end, the main goal for ASMRtists is to bring that comfort and mindful moment back into our routines, helping the mind, body, and soul in hopes everyone can enjoy and experience this newly discovered feeling.