What is ASMR?
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR, is the phrase used to describe the tingling sensation people experience on the skin. It usually begins at the scalp and works its way down the spine, but not always. For the majority of those who experience it, this sensation brings about a sense of relaxation and well-being.
It sounds whacky, but I promise you it’s real. I know because I experience it, and it’s awesome!
ASMR tingles are usually brought on by acoustic and visual triggers and these vary from person to person. It’s also possible to bring on the sensation by thinking about it, but this doesn’t happen for everyone.
There has been little academic research into ASMR. In fact, it was only relatively recently that anyone tried to give the sensation a name. Conversations on forums like Yahoo! and Steady Health saw contributors sharing anecdotes of personal experiences, and discussions grew informally from there, giving rise to the blog The Unnamed Feeling. The term “autonomous sensory meridian response” was only coined in 2010 by Jennifer Allan for her Facebook group.
Some have referred to the experience as a “head orgasm” or “braingasm”, but many within the ASMR community (yes, such a thing exists) refute that terminology because it attaches sexual connotations to an otherwise asexual experience. (Although, there are those who do gain sexual pleasure from these sorts of sounds, leading to a sub-section of the community focusing on ASMRotica, or ASMR erotica).
Most people react in one of two ways upon hearing about ASMR. They’re either intrigued and glad to finally put a name to the sensation they’ve been experiencing for years, or they’re plain weirded out. So, now it’s time to clear something up – this is a natural, physical response that the body creates to relax a person.
As explained in a blog post called “Talking Names: What do we called these tingles, then“, Andrew MacMuiris pointed out that ASMR is:
- Autonomous – spontaneous, self-governing, within or without control
- Sensory – pertaining to the senses or sensation
- Meridian – signifying a peak, climax, or point of highest development
- Response – referring to an experience triggered by something external or internal
It’s honestly not that weird. Although I will admit that I’m not a fan of all the types of videos you can watch on YouTube within the ASMR community.
Who experiences ASMR?
Have you ever watched someone reading a book intently, or type on their laptop and get a warm, fuzzy feeling spread from your scalp and down your neck? Then you’ve experienced ASMR!
I love ASMR. I have found the videos on YouTube to be incredibly helpful at calming me when I’m anxious. They can cancel out the white noise in my brain when I’m desperate to sleep but it feels like sounds are rushing around my skull. I can’t count the number of times I’ve drifted to sleep listening to an ASMR video. They have become a huge part of my self-care routine.
My biggest triggers are ambient, repetitive sounds. I love the sound of turning a book’s pages, light tapping and the sound of hairbrushing. I do have visual triggers too – mostly when I see someone intently carrying out a simple task, like reading or writing. Spiralgraphs and cooking videos (without Gordon Ramsey’s sweary rants) are other great triggers too!
ASMR on YouTube
The ASMR community is arguably most prevalent on YouTube. There are countless ASMR channels whose videos are all created with the intention of triggering viewers’ ASMR. These include audio and visual triggers, with many incorporating a number of different triggers into each video to maximise the ASMR experience.
Since my introduction to ASMR a few years ago, I’ve found a couple of videos incredibly useful for helping me unwind after a stressful day or send me to sleep when I’m really struggling with my anxiety.
Ikea’s venture into ASMR just makes me love the brand even more! While these types of videos don’t usually work so well for me (it’s a bit too Role-Play-esque for my tastes), the sounds are lush and the video has a wonderfully calm vibe which sends light tingles down my scalp and neck.
I once made the mistake of watching this video at work on a particularly stressful day during my lunch break and nearly fell asleep at my desk… (Note to self: ASMR videos are not condusive to a productive afternoon!). The repetitive motion and soft crunch of the sand lulls me into a zen state, which is pretty apt if you think about it.
Tibetan singing bowls have become one of my all-time favourite inventions. This particular video is probably my most-watched on YouTube. There’s something incredibly wholesome and warm about the sound of Tibetan singing bowls. They resonate deeply and never fail to help me relax, even at my most anxious.
I’ll finish off with some unintentional ASMR. Bob Ross is the KING of unintentional tingles. He’s so softly spoken and that deep hum melts my stress away, and do I even need to mention the bristles bouncing gently off the canvas? His videos are ASMR heaven!
So there you have it – that’s the basics of ASMR! Give those videos a shot, you might find they turn you to a puddle of relaxed goo too!