- by Alyson Shane
Ever since I was a little girl, I've always loved the sounds of people speaking softly, soft tapping, scratching or brushing sounds, and lightly-accented voices. I used to sit and watch Bob Ross for hours on end, mesmerized by his voice, and nobody around me could understand why.
This is because I have ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, which Wikipedia describes as "perceptual phenomenon characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or cognitive stimuli."
Basically what happens, for me anyway, is when I listen to people speaking softly, or hear "trigger" sounds, I get a pleasant tingling sensation in my brain. It also makes my skin really sensitive, and I frequently run my fingers gently along my arms or wrists when I hear someone that triggers it.
If you're unsure if you've ever experienced it, ask yourself if you've ever experienced a pleasant tingling feeling, wave of calmness, or "itchy brain" feeling when exposed to any of these triggers:
- Exposure to slow, accented, or unique speech patterns
- Viewing educational or instructive videos or lectures
- Experiencing a high empathetic or sympathetic reaction to an event
- Enjoying a piece of art or music
- Watching another person complete a task, often in a diligent, attentive manner. Examples: filling out a form, writing a check, going through a purse or bag, inspecting an item closely, etc.
- Close, personal attention from another person
- Haircuts, or other touch from another on head or back
I only realized that I had ASMR a few years ago - until then whenever I mentioned the "brain tingles" I would get, people looked at me like I had lost my marbles. It wasn't until listening to an episode of This American Life that I realized that there weren't just others like me, but a while community of people on YouTube, Reddit and elsewhere who share experiences and post videos or audio clips to try and trigger other people.
But why am I talking about this?
First, it's because today is International ASMR Day, so it feels appropriate.
Second, I wanted to write about how finding acceptance in the ASMR community has helped me start accepting a part of my life that I had largely kept hidden from people. Being able to understand and find acceptance about something that had always alienated me from other people was a huge weight off my shoulders. You can only hear "you're weird" or "you're crazy" so many times before you stop trying to discuss an experience with people.
One of the amazing things about the ASMR community online is how kind and accepting everyone is. We all share a weird connection, and most ASMR artists incorporate kind, relaxing, and supportive messages into their videos as part of the "relaxing" experience that ASMR causes.
Third, I wanted to discuss it because ASMR videos have played a huge role in dealing with my anxiety. In addition to feeling a connection with the ASMR artists, the videos have a hugely calming effect on me, and have been a really powerful tool in helping me calm down during an anxiety attack, or helping me focus when I'm stressed out. There's even an article on LifeHack.org about using ASMR to de-stress.
Below are a few of my favourite ASMR videos, which I play on a regular basis when I'm stressed out or just want to experience a pleasant, calm feeling.
If you experience ASMR, or maybe even if you don't (who knows?) they might help calm you or make you feel good:
Do you have ASMR? If so, do you use it to help with an issue like stress or anxiety?