If you spend any time on social media or platforms, you might have come across an unusual trend called ASMR, or “autonomous sensory meridian response.”
People report feeling ASMR, which is described as “tingling sensations” along the scalp, neck and spine, as well as feelings of relaxation and well-being when watching soothing videos.
Although it is not yet fully understood how it works and how effective it is, ASMR “triggers” (mostly videos or audio recordings) can potentially serve as natural remedies for anxiety for people who find it enjoyable. . Research shows that ASMR is also potentially linked to reduced depression, stress, insomnia, and pain.
What is ASMR?
The autonomic response of the sensory meridians is a sensory phenomenon which is still being studied. This term is used to describe tingling sensations and other forms of pleasure that originate near the neck and travel down the body. The autonomic response of the sensory meridians may seem like a complicated bodily process, but it is not. It’s not even a real scientific term, but someone on Facebook coined it in 2010 to describe the feelings people get from watching certain things, especially videos.
Anything that triggers ASMR sensations is called a “trigger”. The most popular ASMR videos and triggers feature people doing ordinary things, such as:
– whisper stories
– repetitive movements
– Meditate and massage
– make rubbing noises
– Stir or pour something
– Giving personal attention to people, for example by grooming or examining them.
– Play with objects such as paper or utensils
– watering plants or doing other household chores
– Make crispy noises
– Create white noise, for example with a hair dryer, airplane noise or a vacuum cleaner.
– Do activities with slow movements
ASMR can be experienced without video, such as doing something creative or tactile with other people, but videos are currently the most popular trigger and how people experience the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Popular ASMR video creators on YouTube even describe their work as an “art form” and call themselves “ASMR artists”.
How does it work?
There hasn’t been much research specifically focused on ASMR, so it’s hard to say how exactly it works. However, we can establish a link between the sensations described by the people concerned, such as calming or comforting, and other types of relaxing or stimulating experiences. We can also rely on anecdotal evidence (people’s explanations of why they enjoy ASMR).
A neurologist explained that ASMR most likely works through several mechanisms:
– ASMR is probably a way to activate the brain’s response to pleasure. In other words, watching certain types of videos makes us feel good, so we keep doing it, which reinforces good feelings.
– It can put people into a “state of flow”, meaning they are fully engaged in the activity and focused on the present moment, which helps calm negative thoughts. ASMR is therefore similar to mindfulness practices, whose positive effects on mental and physical health have been demonstrated by numerous studies.
– It may resemble a type of mild epileptic seizure. Believe it or not, seizures can sometimes be pleasant and are not always damaging to the brain.
– Other research suggests that ASMR triggers may promote synesthesia, a neurological disorder that results in the coming together or merging of senses that are not normally connected. For example, a person with synesthesia can “hear colors” or “see sounds.”
– Also, it can help people feel connected to others, which is naturally uplifting. There is also some evidence that people who experience ASMR are very sensitive. The ASMR response has been associated with increased external sensitivity and better control of attention to body and emotional state. In other words, the studies suggest that people who experience an autonomic sensory meridian response may exhibit subtle brain differences from those who don’t.
From what ASMR enthusiasts have shared, the biggest benefit associated with ASMR videos is that they can have effects on mood, including being relaxing and uplifting. A 2015 study of the effects of ASMR, in which more than 260 people took part, showed that ASMR is akin to a “fluid-like mental state”. Researchers have found that ASMR triggers can potentially help to:
– Improve people’s mood
– reduce stress, anxiety and depression
– potentially reduce chronic pain
– improve concentration
– improve sleep.
Another possible benefit is that people feel seen and connected to other people who like the same types of triggers/videos. It can reduce feelings of loneliness and serve as an outlet for stress.
How to do it
There isn’t necessarily just one way to experience ASMR, since it seems to come down to individual preference. In the study mentioned above, the vast majority of people who reported experiencing ASMR regularly said they preferred watching triggers/videos at night before bed in a quiet, relaxed place. It can be part of a calming nighttime routine that can help you feel sleepier and less alert. (Just be aware that too much screen time and exposure to blue light near bedtime can interfere with sleep).
You will probably need to use the internet/social media to achieve autonomous meridian sensory response, for example with the help of videos or recordings on YouTube. You can also try using binaural headphones to improve sound quality. Binaural headsets play two similar tones in each ear, which seems to affect brain waves in a way that has a soothing response.
If you want to experience the effects of ASMR without using devices, try listening to audio recordings of repetitive sounds and white noise, such as wind, ocean waves, airplanes, rain, etc.
You can also choose to use ASMR triggers at other times of the day when you feel stressed or distracted, such as when exercising or taking a break to focus on tasks at work.
Risks and side effects
Is ASMR safe?
Overall, yes. If a person uses the autonomic sensory meridian response as a tool for relaxation, it is unlikely to cause any side effects or problems. That said, this method is probably not for everyone.
Why is ASMR so bothersome for some people?
Because everyone has different preferences, likes and dislikes (known as “neurodiversity”), not everyone reacts the same way to the same ASMR triggers or videos. This means that to experience ASMR, you probably need to do some experimenting to see what kinds of themes resonate with you the most (if at all). People also say they “become tolerant of triggers” if they listen to or watch them too often. You may find ASMR videos somewhat appealing at first, but they become very boring if you keep watching them, so try changing them up to see if that helps.
Why does ASMR exist? The autonomic sensory meridian response is a type of sensory phenomenon that researchers are still discovering. It has gained popularity on social media and platforms like Reddit over the past decade. People describe ASMR as a tingling, static feeling on the scalp and neck. Many find it relaxing and capable of improving their mood. It is triggered by certain types of audio and visual stimuli, as well as role-playing. Some research suggests that ASMR triggers/videos can help reduce depression, stress, and chronic pain.