When I tell you I really love ASMR, I’m not joking. In fact, as I sit here writing this article I’m listening to Heather Feather’s ASMR Ear, Nose and Throat Examination. It’s probably one of my favorite videos she does (thanks to the ear cupping and whispers), and I figured it would help me better explain the ASMR experience if it was happening while I wrote it.
Also, I’m listening because, like I said, I really love listening to ASMR and can’t go a day without it.
Well, that’s an exaggeration. I can go a day without ASMR, but I choose not too.
I CAN QUIT ANYTIME I WANT, OKAY?
If you know what ASMR is, and you’ve experienced it, you likely share a similar, but less extreme, view on watching and listening to the videos. It’s become a part of your routine to help you sleep, unwind, relax, or combat anxiety on a fairly regular basis.
If you don’t know what ASMR is, and you’ve never experienced it, you’re probably wondering what it is and what it does for someone. And if you are in fact wondering that, then I’m delighted to tell you, you’ve come to the right place.
Get ready for a crash course in ASMR, and I hope that this encourages you to do a little listening of your own!
What Is ASMR?
ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and that’s about as concrete as this explanation is going to get. Even as an avid listener, it’s difficult to explain what ASMR is, but ASMR University does a great job summing it up.
According to them, ASMR is “a narrow range of physiological responses to a wide variety of stimuli.”
What this means to me, however, is that when I listen to certain ASMRtists on YouTube, I will feel relaxed, sleepy and occasionally get tingles in my head, neck and face.
My reaction is a fairly normal one, but ASMR University explains that other responses to ASMR stimuli (known as triggers) can include:
- Physical sensations, like: tingles, chills, and/or waves in the head, neck and spine, and throughout the rest of the body
- Psychological sensations, like: good feelings of euphoria, happiness, comfort, calmness, peacefulness, relaxation, restfulness, and/or sleepiness.
Those sensations are ASMR, which means there’s a very good chance you’ve experienced it at some point in your life and just not known it.
For example, remember lice checks? If you were one of those kids that anxiously awaited your turn and never wanted them to stop running their fingers through your hair, you’ve likely experienced ASMR.
Or, if you were the kind of person that always asked your friends at sleepovers to draw letters on your back while you went to sleep, you’ve probably experienced ASMR.
And, if you’re the kind of person who used to turn on Bob Ross and feel extremely relaxed by the end of segment, you’ve probably experienced ASMR.
Experiencing ASMR is both extremely scientific and completely random. No two people will likely experience a trigger the same way, and no two people will likely have identical trigger lists. It may also take some time to figure out what triggers give you the best response, and which ones have no effect. Plus, depending on any other variety of reasons, triggers that usually effect you may not, while triggers that don’t usually make you tingle will.
Unfortunately, it has been discovered that not everyone can experience ASMR. There hasn’t been any true understanding for why some people experience ASMR and others don’t, but the only way to find out which one you are is to give it a shot.
But, now it begs the question, what’s the history of ASMR?
What’s The History Of ASMR?
ASMR first started gaining public notice in 2007, when someone posted in a forum: “weird sensation feels good”. But at the time, there wasn’t a name for it. In 2008, someone coined the term Attention Induced Head Orgasm, or AIHO. Honestly, I’m kind of glad they changed it, because explaining to someone I listen to Attention Induced Head Orgasm videos on YouTube would definitely make conversations awkward.
The first ASMR channel was then started in 2009, called Whispering Life. They were credited as the very first ASMRtist, and creating what quickly became a major phenomena among YouTubers.
When 2010 rolled around, the train really started rolling, and it’s been almost non-stop since. ASMRtists have gained significant popularity on YouTube, amassing millions of followers. Facebook Groups of tingle-seeking people were formed, and websites were created dedicated to understanding what ASMR is, how it’s created, and providing research to an understudied, but important aspect of the human mind.
To see more about the history of ASMR, you can visit ASMR University’s History of ASMR page.
How Can ASMR Be Experienced?
Now that we understand what ASMR is and how it came to be, we can start to understand how to experience it. For me personally, my first experience with ASMR was through a Fine Brothers video where they had YouTubers React to ASMR. When I first watched the videos I didn’t feel anything, primarily because I was super uncomfortable and couldn’t relax.
I blame that on the people that tried to write off ASMR as a sexual fetish, and made it seem dirtier than it was. Now that I’m a part of the ASMR community, I can safely say that there is nothing sexual about these videos, and I truly don’t know what I would do without them in times of panic, anxiety and stress.
Experiencing ASMR comes from a variety triggers, which are divided into three categories: visual (seen), auditory (heard) and tactile (felt). These triggers can either be real, as in someone actually playing with your hair or gently stroking your back, or electronic, as in video and/or recordings of specific triggers.
However, it is possible that sometimes you can experience ASMR just by thinking about a trigger. No, it’s true, and now that I’ve been listening and watching ASMR videos, I find that I can occasionally trigger ASMR simply by imagining it.
It’s pretty freaking neat.
Video specific ASMR utilizes a very cool feature called binaural and trinaural sound, which means as you listen to videos it sounds like that person is in the room with you. It’s meant to mimic how you would hear these sounds in real life, which means if you close your eyes and the person walks in a circle, it’ll seem like they are really walking in a circle around you.
Binaural and Trinaural microphones aren’t needed to get ASMR, but it does add an extra layer to the videos and the triggers and you’ll likely find most popular ASMRtists use binaural microphones in their videos.
Oh, and probably the most important part of ASMR is listening with headphones. I suggest over the ear headphones, but any headphones will work great. Now, you could listen to it just through the speakers of your computer, but for the best effects headphones are a must. You don’t need any special, surround sound headphones either. Just find a pair you like, and you’ll be good to go.
What Kind Of Triggers Are There?
This is where things get very wide open.
As I’ve already mentioned, ASMR can be done by experiencing visual, auditory and/or tactile triggers either in real life or through video/audio.
The following list is only a small sample of triggers, but they are the most common ones that ASMR University has on their website:
- Tactile triggers: light touch, massage, hair touching, grooming (like brushing your hair), or physical examination
- Visual triggers: eye gazing, slow hand movements
- Auditory triggers can be divided into 3 subcategories:
- Vocal: soft, whispering, slow, gentle, increased pitch, caring, monotone
- Oral: mouth sounds, chewing, blowing
- Objects: tapping, scratching, crinkling, stroking, handling.
Usually, these triggers are done repetitively, at a steady pace with steady volume, and in a non-threatening way. The constant sound or action is what produces the ASMR, and especially in my case, sometimes a certain trigger won’t effect me until it’s been repeated for a short period of time.
There are also certain traits that people can possess that can create an ASMR response for those who interact with them, even if they aren’t actively trying to do so. This is what ASMR University calls “unintentional ASMR”. People who trigger ASMR without actively trying to are usually: kind, caring, empathetic, attentive, focused, and/or trustworthy.
Now, one of the most popular ways for people to experience ASMR is through specifically crafted YouTube videos called role plays. These role plays usually incorporate a variety of triggers, and are done by someone who has one or many of the traits discussed above.
Usually, these videos involved one of the following scenarios: spa treatments, cranial nerve exams (or other examination type role plays), hair salon visits, or other personal attention situations.
How Does ASMR Help People?
While there hasn’t been any significant research done on the positive effects of ASMR, people who suffer from insomnia, anxiety, panic, depression and other medical issues have reported that listening to ASMR has had a very positive impact on their symptoms. At least, while they listen and for a short time after.
As we’ve already stated, most people who experience ASMR find themselves feeling calm, relaxed, restful and euphoric following a trigger. For people experiencing high amounts of stress, anxiety and restlessness, these videos could and do provide relief if the listener is appropriately triggered.
My personal experience has been tremendous, and it’s why I have begun suggesting it to everyone I know who struggles with anxiety, insomnia, or depression.
I started listening to ASMR, coincidentally, about a month before I started having frequent panic attacks. Once the panic attacks started, the only time I ever felt genuinely relaxed and at ease was when I listened to ASMR. I credit my ability to stay sane, relax and sleep during my worst months to Heather Feather, WhispersRed and FastASMR.
I’m not sure what I would have done without my Relax & Sleep playlist, and I’m just one of thousands of people who use ASMR for this very purpose.
So, I hope this has helped you understand more of what ASMR is and how it effects people. If you’re still unsure of what it is, I highly recommend you get some over ear headphones, head to YouTube and type in ASMR videos.
The best way to understand how something works is to experience it. I just hope that you are one of the lucky people who can in fact be triggered.
Got a favorite ASMR channel, or perhaps a very specific trigger that gives you the tingles? Let us know in the comments!
For more information, you can visit ASMR University and explore the countless pages of information they have on the art and science of ASMR.
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