Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a subjective experience of low grade euphoria which results in a combination of positive feelings and tingling sensations, which can be from a variety of stimuli; there are now more than 13 million YouTube videos where people film themselves producing some form of ASMR sounds for stress relief or sounds of nature.
To learn more about ASMR is all about, it’s probably best to breakdown its etymology:
- Autonomous – spontaneous, self-governing, with or without control
- Sensory – about 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 also important to note that these various responses outlined above are subjective and dependent on a variety of stimuli… I am a huge proponent of finding the particular ASMR that you find most calming for yourself, because there are particular memories which are attached with sensory experience (for example, how we attach scent and memory together etc.). Last year, The New York Times wrote an article outlining the history of ASMR.
There are many reasons why people are interested in ASMR; for example, I encountered it for the first time when looking for calming background sounds when I was diagnosed with tinnitus at the age of 20. For me, listening to calming ocean sounds is really soothing, especially for managing my tinnitus which I have been able to manage very well alongside my loved ones for the past seven years, but it’s a journey that I deal with everyday. Being conscious about sounds which help destress you is always beneficial, whether you experience tinnitus or not.
ASMR stimuli can include the following:
- Listening to a softly spoken or whispering voice
- Listening to quiet, repetitive sounds resulting from someone engaging in a mundane task such as turning the pages of a book
- Watching somebody attentively execute a mundane task such as preparing food
- Loudly chewing, crunching, slurping or biting foods, drinks, or gum
- Receiving personal attention
- Initiating the stimulus through conscious manipulation without the need for external video or audio triggers
- Listening to tapping, typically nails onto surfaces such as plastic, wood, paper, metal, etc.
- Hand movements, especially onto one’s face
- Listening to certain types of music
- Listening to a person blow or exhale into a microphone
A niche concept on the Internet erupted to a phenomenon for a reason… ASMR is not just a ‘trend,’ it’s been a denotation of the physical experiences which profoundly affect us and which lacks in the stressful pace of everyday life. It’s up to us to change that by being mindful of our intake of sensations, our feelings, and our behaviors. On a lighter note, the famous painter Bob Ross, is a great example of a form of ASMR.
One of my favorite PBS shows when I was a kid was watching Bob Ross paint and many adults now also love to rewatch his painting videos for the calming and soothing affect his voice has with the sound of him painting. Nic Hankins is one of his contemporaries who has continued the legend of Mr. Ross. He is a wonderful example of the calming effects of ASMR. IKEA has also produced ASMR videos using their products.
Ultimately, ASMR is what you choose to make of it, which is what can be so great for your own stress relief; for example, I think that certain sounds can help for meditation, so there are some videos that I love to meditate with, specifically “The Butterfly Effect.” Moreover, you can listen to ASMR for stress relief while working or before you go to sleep. There are so many ways to integrate stress relieving sounds into your life and choose the sounds that you enjoy.
Our bodies are composed of about 70% water – vibrations matter because our body intensely listens to vibrations when so much of us is composed of water. The vibrations of sounds affect how we feel, since water’s vibrations impact who we are. In turn, that affects how we experience our lives. ASMR can help us integrate a more mindful experience in how we choose to intake sensory experience.