Odds are that by now you have probably heard the term ASMR. It's commonly found on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, where ASMRtists create content with unique sounds or visuals that help many people relax. There are hundreds of different types of ASMR. For instance, some people enjoy sound-based ASMR while others look for tactile ASMR to get a soothing effect. Whatever your preference, there are volumes of content online to satisfy those who are looking for it.
So why do people find ASMR so relaxing? The science behind the trend is still emerging, but exploring the history of ASMR and the research can provide insight into why this trend has gained traction.
What Is ASMR?
The term ASMR was created in 2010 and has risen in popularity over the years as artists have come forward to create content are share it digitally. So what does ASMR stands for? It's a rather scientific phrase, so let's break it down.
- Autonomous - Something that is independent, innate, or naturally-occurring
- Sensory - A form of stimulation to an organ, such as the ears, that causes a nerve impulse to be sent to the brain.
- Meridian - According to traditional Chinese medicine, meridians are channels throughout the body that form a network responsible for sending signals and transferring energy. There are four meridian channels throughout the body that travel to the brain.
- Response - Anything that occurs due to a stimulus. As defined by the American Psychological Association (APA), it is a "clearly defined and measurable unit of behavior."
ASMR is autonomous sensory meridian response - a form of naturally-occurring stimulation that sends signals to the brain and causes it to react in a specific way. Many people experience pleasant physiological tingling sensations when they engage in ASMR.
Does everyone experience ASMR when exposed to designated content? Although psychologists call for more studies to be done surrounding ASMR, current studies find that not everyone experiences brain tingles. Some researchers have found that those who experience the tingling and relaxing sensation of ASMR have higher rates of connectivity between certain areas of the brain, such as the occipital, frontal, and temporal lobes.
To find out if you can experience ASMR, play an ASMR video of your choosing. You can even watch or listen to a few if you're new to the concept to get settled. Then, take note of your body and see how you feel. Do you feel a positive and distinct sensation that feels like tingling or static? Most people experience these sensations across the scalp or the back of their neck. This experiment can help you understand if you experience ASMR or if you are neutral to it.
When people experience ASMR, they often feel a pleasant tingling sensation that begins in the areas of their head and neck, and that can travel throughout the rest of the body. This relaxing sensation is often referred to as 'brain tingles' or a 'brain massage'.
Research shows that emotional experiences can cause physiological responses in the body. You can think of this sensation as being similar to the shivers down the spine that some people experience when they are nervous or excited. Or like goosebumps that occur for some people when they watch a scary movie.
Different Types of ASMR
There are six different types of ASMR. However, these six categories have numerous subcategories. In fact, if there's something you're particularly interested in, such as books or candy, there's an ASMR genre for that. There are thousands, if not millions of ASMR videos online that focus on different kinds of content. Odds are that there might find something that catches your eye. You can explore the many different types of ASMR
One type of ASMR is centered around sounds. These sounds can be anything from whispering to popping bubble wrap. In fact, typing on a keyboard or writing with a pen on paper are popular ASMR sounds that many people find soothing. Some additional types of ASMR sounds include:
- Crinkling - Often includes unwrapping a variety of foods or packages and squeezing the different materials in a variety of ways to create unique sounds.
- Tapping - People tap the tips of their fingers or their nails on different surfaces to create a variety of different sounds.
- Whispering - People speaking in soft voices and delivering affirmations that are often viewed to be soothing or comforting.
In eating ASMR, people eat a variety of foods in front of an ASMR microphone. This picks up different sounds of crunching, slurping, and chewing that many people find pleasing. Many people even watch these types of ASMR videos or listen to this ASMR audio when they are eating food themselves as a way to enhance their own eating experience. Some different types of eating ASMR are:
- Candy - People eat a variety of different candies and capture all of the interesting sounds. For example, people bite into chocolate bars, unwrap the crinkly package, and make exaggerated crunches.
- Pets - People aren't the only ones that participate in ASMR. Pets can, too. Many ASMR accounts are dedicated to different animals trying out food. For example, you can listen to a video of a pup eating doggie biscuits or trying different brands of bacon strips.
- Specific colors - Many people find it relaxing to watch videos of people eating foods of a certain color. For example, you might find an ASMR video of a person eating different foods that are purple. These types of videos not only introduce people to different foods and flavors, but they can also be visually appealing for them to see a variety of different shades of a certain color.
ASMR can also be achieved through visuals. Some people find it relaxing to watch videos when they experience ASMR, rather than just listening to audio. They often involve people performing gentle hand movements that many think of as soothing.
- Chopping vegetables - In some ASMR videos, people carefully chop up fruits and vegetables, and a variety of other objects. People often gently slice objects and keep them at about the same size, which can be visually appealing. In addition, ASMR microphones capture the sounds of the knives slicing and the vegetables crunching as they are being chopped.
- Cutting soap - In soap cutting videos, people gently slice through bars of soap in different ways. Some people create gentle slices horizontally and diagonally throughout the entire bar of soap. Then, they take a cutting tool and begin to peel back the layers as the bar of soap turns into a cascade of soap squares. In other videos, people shave off small layers of soap as of they were whittling the bar into an art piece.
- Mixing paint - Another type of ASMR that is visually appealing is mixing paint. In these ASMR videos, people mix different paints together using their hands or blending brushes to create unique colors. Some people mix their paints into rainbows or color gradients, which add another layer of visual appeal to the videos.
Destruction ASMR is a type of visual ASMR that usually involves videos of people squishing, squeezing, and crushing a variety of objects. Although the name itself may not sound soothing, many people find it relaxing. Many of the objects that people destroy are soft and the way the videos are created often makes it seem as though the person watching the video is the one engaged in play.
- Make-up - In makeup destruction videos, people often use a small tool to scrape eyeshadow out of pallets. They also mix together different colors of foundation and lipstick to create new shades. In addition, some videos use scissors or plastic knives to cut lipstick into small, even pieces. In some of the videos, creators even put the make-up back together again by using water and gently mixing the eyeshadows back into their pallets.
- Sand - People will build sand castles, often with kinetic sand, and then flatten the creations with their hands. In some videos, people will even use shovels and plastic knives to cut the sand art and create even more sounds and relaxing visuals.
- Sponges - Sponges are great for squishing and squeezing. In sponge destruction videos, people often use sponges to absorb different colored water, paint, or glitter. Then they squeeze the sponge until the color has drained completely. In some videos, people even cut sponges with scissors or pull them apart in small pieces.
Some people can even achieve ASMR by doing some of the above-mentioned activities themselves. This is known as tactile ASMR because people engage in the activities with their own hands.
- Mixing paint - Some people might experience ASMR through mixing paint. To do this, squeeze different colors of paint onto a plate or paint pallet. Then use a brush, your hands, or a pallet knife to mix the different paints together. See how it makes you feel, and discover which kinds of color combinations are pleasing to you.
- Playing with slime - Slime has a stretchy, soft, and gooey texture, which can make it relaxing to play with for adults and children alike. People can experience tactile ASMR by squeezing and stretching slime. Many people also add sequins, beads, or small styrofoam balls to their slime to give them different textures. You can also add scents by using essential oils or shaving cream to add to your experience.
- Typing on a keyboard - Another way to experience tactile ASMR is through typing on a keyboard. You can do this by opening a blank document on your computer and typing away on the keys, or, you can turn your computer screen off and continue to type. Listen to the way the keys make different clicking sounds and the way it feels when you press each one.
This is a type of ASMR that creates the illusion that the person in the video is interacting with the person watching the video. It also involves prolonged eye contact and personal attention to create a more intimate setting.
- Haircuts - In a haircut role-play an artist will simulate giving the listener a haircut. They might hold their scissors near the camera lens to create the illusion that they are giving you a trim. And, they might explain how they are gently washing your hair to prepare you for the haircut.
- Make-up application - If you are watching a makeup ASMR role-play, the artist will touch the camera lens with their hands and make-up brushes to create the effect that they are actually applying makeup to the viewer. They may describe gentle brush strokes and textures that can be relaxing.
- Massages - ASMR massage role-play is similar to a body scan. In the video, the artist will narrate a relaxing massage. For example, they might explain how their hands are gently kneading your shoulders or rubbing your back.
The above genres only scratch the surface of what is available in the world of ASMR. There are accounts dedicated to the sounds of opening books and turning pages, to the sounds of people preparing and baking cookies in their kitchen.
Health Benefits of ASMR
Research shows that there are a variety of health benefits associated with ASMR. One study from the Journal of Affective Disorders found that ASMR can have claiming effects on individuals of the general population, as well as those that experience mental health struggles.
The study included over one thousand participants ranging from ages 18 to 66. Then, they separated the participants into categories of those without a mental health struggle, those with depression, those with insomnia, and those with depression and insomnia. Next, all participants in these categories were shown an ASMR video, and their changes in mood were compared to a control group that did not watch an ASMR video.
The results showed that every participant that watched an ASMR video felt more relaxed and had a more positive mood than participants that did not watch the video. Even if participants did not experience the brain-tingling sensations. Participants within the depression category, as well as combined insomnia and depression, experienced the most benefits. However, the insomnia group did not experience significant improvements in mood, which presents potential limits to ASMR.
Other health benefits of ASMR include:
- Decreased heart rate
- Decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Improved relaxation
- Improved sleep
- Increased positive mood
- Reduced stress
Psychologists call for more research to be done in the field of ASMR in order to better understand its health benefits. Currently, most research has been done surrounding participants that experience the ASMR brain tingles, although more research needs to be done surrounding health benefits for those that do not experience the physiological response.
Adverse Effects of ASMR
Research has found that people who are capable of experiencing ASMR may be more prone to certain consequences. For example, one study found that people that are ASMR-capable and experience brain tingles also experience higher rates of neuroticism and anxiety than those who do not experience the brain tingles.
Additional research from the Peer Journal of Brain, Cognition, and Mental Health found that ASMR-experiencing individuals also showed higher rates of misophonia, a medical condition where certain sounds can cause a person to experience negative emotional reactions. For example, many people with misophonia dislike the sound of people chewing food and may need to leave the room to relieve feelings of irritation or disgust.
Research is still ongoing in the field of ASMR, and many psychologists call for more research to be done. Higher rates of negative emotional responses and misophonia may be associated with being able to experience ASMR. However, there is not yet enough research to support a causal link.
How to Use ASMR to Help You Relax
You can experience ASMR through watching visuals, listening to audio, or having a tactile experience with certain objects. Try out all of the different kinds of ASMR and see what feels right for you.
You might find that you experience brain tingles. Or, you might find that you don't. Either way, it can help you learn more about yourself and what you find relaxing. And, whether you experience the brain tingles or not, you can still find the ASMR experience relaxing and enjoyable.
Play With Slime
One way to experience tactile ASMR is to play with slime. You can stretch it, squeeze it, or spread it across a surface until it looks paper thin. Have fun with it, and see what aspects you enjoy.
Do you not have any slime on hand? Don't worry. Mix together one cup of washable glue, one teaspoon of baking soda, and 3 teaspoons of contact solution. Add food coloring to personalize it. You can even add glitter, buttons, or sequins to give it more texture. You can also make DIY playdough or silly putty.
You can even invite your kids to play with slime with you. Odds are that they'll enjoy it. It will give you a chance to stretch their creative muscles, and also give them an enjoyable activity that can help them relax.
Listen to ASMR Before Bed
Many people that find ASMR relaxing listen to it before bed. Think of it as a relaxing bedtime story or podcast for adults. You can explore different types of ASMR, such as the sound of rainfall, or the gentle sounds of people sipping coffee in a cafe.
Make it part of your nighttime routine. You can start to listen to the soothing sounds as you get ready for bed, and keep them playing as you drift off to sleep.
Watch an ASMR Video When You Feel Stressed
Another way to use ASMR is to turn to it whenever you're stressed. Take a break at work when you are feeling overwhelmed and watch a video to help you relax. You don't have to watch an entire video, but you can watch until you feel calmer.
You can watch a cooking ASMR video when you prep your own meal in the kitchen. Or, watch a beauty ASMR video when you get ready to head to work. Find what works best for you and see where you can incorporate ASMR into your day.
Record Your Own ASMR
One additional way to experience ASMR is to create your own. This way you can make something that is highly personalized and that you know you would enjoy. Before you create your own ASMR, you'll need some equipment to help get you started. Some items you might need are:
- A recording camera - If you want to make visual ASMR videos, you'll need a camera. You can use your phone to record or buy a recording camera, which starts at around $65.
- A ring light - If you are making visual content, you might want to invest in some lighting to help make your videos clear and bright. Ring lights can be found for as low as $25.
- An ASMR microphone - This is probably the most important item since it will help you record sounds. They can cost between $20 to $100 depending on the type and many ASMRtists use more than one.
- Materials - You might also need to gather some materials to create your videos depending on what interests you. You might want to make your own slime or purchase some online. You could explore different foods and candies for eating ASMR videos. Or, you can collect paints, instruments, and other items to create whatever sounds are pleasing to you.
There's no right or wrong way to engage in ASMR. If you're looking for a new way to relax, try it out and see how you feel. If you like it, incorporate it into your nighttime routine or self-care practice. Even if you don't experience the brain-tingles, it can still make you feel more relaxed. Who knows? You might even find that it's a new hobby you enjoy.