The power of ASMR

Dealing with everyday life can often be overwhelming. We all have countless things to tackle but very little time to do so, which can lead to increased stress and, for many of us, not enough sleep. It can become difficult to let things go and just relax. However, taking the necessary distance from all those stressful deadlines is the best thing to do, especially during overwhelming times. Choosing for our own wellbeing is mandatory. We owe it to ourselves to take it slow, to know when to say no and when to chill. I know that it is easier said than done, but stop for a minute and consider: when was the last time you actually did something relaxing?

If the answer to this question is “hmm … I can’t remember” then you are in the right place. What if I told you that there is a very fascinating and costless way to reduce your stress? It is an accessible and cheap trend and it’s called ASMR.

Are you familiar with those tingles on your head and neck when someone whispers to your ear, or when raindrops make that tapping sound on your window? Well, you might not know it, but you are experiencing ASMR tingles.

ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response and it’s a reaction people have to specific triggers, such as whispering, tapping, or slow movements. This sensory reaction is translated as ‘brain tingles’, basically goosebumps, which can often lead to feelings of calmness and relaxation. But how does ASMR work exactly?

Watching ASMR videos can cultivate your attention to sounds you might not normally notice. The combination of video and sound (when you hear but also see the movements) guarantees a dynamic result that can help you feel less stress and even sleep better. This sensory experience creates certain physical and psychological effects on your body that you begin feeling mindful and peaceful. That tingling sensation that begins on the crown of your head and continues throughout your spine can be very soothing.

The lovely Maria, from ‘Gentle Whispering’

ASMR became a worldwide trend though YouTube when some people started making videos that included both visual and binaural (for both ears) triggers so that viewers can experience those ‘brain tingles’. ASMR has become so popular the last years, that there are currently around 13 million ASMR videos on YouTube with hundreds of new ones uploaded every day. ASMR artists have become so famous that some of them create ASMR videos as a fulltime job (!). Take for example the YouTube channel ‘Gentle Whispering ASMR’ that counts so far 1.5 million subscribers and over 500 million views in total.

Some common ASMR types you can find on YouTube include whispering, tapping, hair brushing, massaging, scratching surfaces and even the idea that someone is touching your face or head, also known as ASMR role-playing. There are videos with eating, chewing and mouth sounds, videos with folding towels or playing with slime. The list is truly endless. You just need to find what works for you, since not all sounds are suitable for everyone. I, for example, truly hate eating sounds, so I avoid ASMR videos that include those. And I do love videos that include tapping or face touching. You just need to find what works best for you.

I have been watching ASMR videos almost every day for the last year, and I have to admit, they have helped me enormously with insomnia and stress. There is something truly relaxing in just watching someone tap an unusual item or slightly touch someone’s back. Yes, I know, this all sounds a bit odd, but if you are looking for a more alternative way to deal with stress and anxiety, I guarantee this will help.

The wonderful Emma from WhispersRed

The popularity of ASMR is also evident in the scientific community, with researchers from the University of Sheffield investigating the possible mental health benefits of watching ASMR videos. They have found that the people who experience the ‘brain tingles’, while watching ASMR videos, showed a decreased heart rate compared with the people who don’t experience the tingles. The most interesting part, as Dr. Giulia Poerio, of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Psychology says, “is that the average reductions in heart rate experienced by our ASMR participants were comparable to other research findings on the physiological effects of stress-reduction techniques such as music and mindfulness.” So, watching ASMR videos can indeed reduce your stress!

The truth is it will feel very weird the first time you explore ASMR videos, however, if it works for you, you will become addicted to it very quickly. It is also known, anecdotally, that if you listen to too much ASMR you ‘lose’ your sensitivity to certain tingles. If that happens to you don’t worry, just take a break from ASMR and when you come back to it, the tingles will return too.

There is something in those videos, especially the ones focused on helping you sleep, that is truly relaxing. Because the videos include very specific sounds, they function as a form of audiovisual meditation. Just try out some videos of ‘WhispersRed ASMR’ Emma or ‘Caroline ASMR’, and you will see for yourself. So, take my advice and check some ASMR videos the next time you will feel discouraged and stressed by the countless things you have to do. There is a big chance you will feel much more relaxed and focused, ready to conquer every obstacle that comes your way!

Photos: screenshots made from YouTube. Pictures created with Canon EOS 1000D and edited with VscoCam (Groningen, May 2019).