ASMR Explained: ASMR on the Brain & Body
Have you come across those odd videos on the internet featuring a person whispering, clicking their nails against a hard surface, playing with the bristles of a hairbrush, or swiping makeup brushes across a microphone? Chances are, you probably have - ASMR is a huge new fad online.
Autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR, is “an experience characterized by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine.” In other words, it refers to the mental and physical effects that certain sounds and textures have on the mind and body. The physical effects of ASMR are often described as a tingling sensation on the back of the scalp and down the neck.
People use ASMR for many reasons, but mainly to help them feel calmer and lower stress, as well as help them sleep. The sounds used often include quiet whispers, fingernails tapping, paper being torn, or other repetitive, gentle sounds. Although the effects of ASMR do not happen for everyone, scientific studies are being done to ascertain its therapeutic effects in more detail. Meanwhile, there continues to be an influx of ASMR videos and podcasts available online, many of which have millions of plays.
But why do some people find these videos so soothing while others find them off-putting and completely meaningless? Does ASMR really have therapeutic effects for those that do experience it?
How ASMR Works on the Brain & Body
Science Daily reports both mental and physical health benefits to ASMR.
The brain tingles have been shown to lower heart rates in addition to creating a pleasing feeling in the head and producing a calm feeling. There are many different types of ASMR videos that include different types of audio-visual stimuli. Essentially, these stimuli are specifically meant to help you relax by engaging your senses in very specific ways.
ASMR’s effects on the body are comparable to the effects of other mindfulness techniques. Scientific findings reveal that ASMR videos do create physiological responses. For example, the heart rate lowers just as much as when listening to music. The sensation referred to as “aesthetic chills” that you feel when you experience something awe-inspiring is also similar to ASMR.
If you’re looking to put your mental health first, improve sleep, and relax, ASMR might be just as helpful to you as it has been for so many people.
ASMR Beginner’s Tips
While there are many more studies on music than ASMR, the last decade has seen a significant rise in the use of these videos through Reddit and YouTube, which has over 13 million ASMR videos. Check out a few of these videos, such as making a bed, folding clothes, medical examinations, and see if you get the brain tingles or ‘braingasms.’
Common things you’ll hear in ASMR videos include talking quietly, haircuts, lip-smacking, playing with hair, doing something meticulously, scratching, soap carving, eating a pickle, paper crunching, role play, and many other sounds or visuals. Some of the videos last up to three hours. Search for ASMR tingles and see what you find! There is even a book about brain tingles if you want to learn more.
Most ASMR videos are free on YouTube and you’ll find the ones that people find the most relaxing have the most views. Perhaps watch one video before bed each night and write down how your sleep is for the next two weeks in a journal. You can also write down if you feel more peaceful throughout the day and if you’re able to handle life with less angst.
New Developments With ASMR
You may be shocked to find that there is an ASMR University and that people are being hired as ASMR consultants by advertising agencies. The techniques are being incorporated into commercials to create an experience for people. Basically, those tingles are now being used to sell items. You may have seen the Michelob Superbowl commercial which included whispering and nails tapping on a glass while a woman sat on a platform in the mountains. While the marketing firms are racing to find new ways to reach the consumer, there is another aspect to ASMR that’s perhaps more valuable to you.
We know there are numerous studies linking over-usage of social media to depression, and people frequently take technology detoxes to try to mitigate the effects of screen time. However, ASMR is becoming a resource to combat depression and anxiety and is a refreshing technological solution to a problem that is quickly affecting people of all ages. The simplicity of these videos allows our brain to shut off and helps us feel the joy that we may have found as children when we were immersed in our imagination.
Neuroscience News reports that there are significant findings that show ASMR videos can help lower depression and the videos are primarily used for mental health. While they don’t exactly know what causes the sensation yet in the body, they are linking the sensation to a similar phenomenon called synaesthesia wherein people visualize colors when they hear certain sounds.
Try ASMR for Yourself!
In a time where we are finding it difficult to string our thoughts together into complete sentences or find peace of mind while our brain is addicted to the serotonin hits of social media likes, we should be skeptical of more digital remedies that have an addictive component to them. However, it may, for some people, provide a brief respite for the mind and help you feel relaxed. There are tons of digital remedies for stress such as apps that help you meditate and even guided meditations with peaceful images on YouTube.
If you find the videos do nothing for you or just don’t get it, it probably is just because your brain doesn’t find those things relaxing. Our senses pick on information with different levels of sensitivity. For some, sounds can distract them while for others, it’s relaxing. If you don’t enjoy the videos, there’s nothing wrong with you, they just don’t provide something you need at this time.
It’s interesting that something so simple is appealing to the public and says something about what can actually help our overall wellbeing. Perhaps we are doing too much and it’s detracting from our quality of life. Perhaps our heart’s desire for the simple pleasures in life needs to be acknowledged more often so we can find balance in mind, body, and soul. It speaks to a deeper truth that is emerging from the collective subconscious that can help us find a happier tomorrow.
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