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ASMR is the YouTube trend that everyone is whispering about. It stands for ‘Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response’ which basically means pleasant, relaxing tingles in your upper body. You might have experienced this feeling without even knowing it when having your scalp massaged at the hairdresser or hearing certain sounds.
There are millions of videos on YouTube attempting to aurally trigger this sensation. In fact, ASMR is the third most searched word on YouTube, after Pewdiepie and Korean boy band sensation BTS. The coronavirus pandemic has only increased ASMR’s popularity as a remedy for stress, anxiety and insomnia. But how much do we really know about this kooky trend?
As I mentioned in my article on mental wellbeing, ASMR can really help you to cope with feelings of anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
ASMR is commonly described as “brain tingles” or likened to a “brain massage.” It’s a pleasant sensation in your upper body that creates a kind of relaxed euphoria. Physical touch can trigger the sensation, but sound can do exactly the same thing. As a result, many have found it to be a powerful tool for coping with loneliness and isolation during the pandemic.
There’s not a ton of scientific research on ASMR but one study showed that the sensation can trigger the release of oxytocin – aka “the love hormone” – in the brain. It’s unsurprising that so many people are seeking this out at a time when social contact is minimal.
The primary use of ASMR videos is to fall asleep, so if you’ve been struggling with insomnia during the pandemic, it could be a remedy to help you drift off at night. As we all know, a good night’s sleep can work wonders for your mental health.
Many ASMRtists describe their channels as “safe spaces” and create videos designed to comfort their viewers. They often whisper reassuring phrases like “you’re safe, it’s going to be okay, I’m here for you.”
The ASMR sensation was only formally identified around a decade ago. A woman named Jennifer Allen wanted to find out what this peculiar, yet pleasant tingling sensation was. She started a Facebook group trying to find others who experienced it too. It turned out to be much more common than she thought, although there was no scientific research on the topic. Allen named the feeling ‘Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response’ – ASMR for short.
In the mid-2010s, ASMR began to emerge as a category on YouTube. Vloggers began whispering and recording crisp sounds to help their viewers unwind. Very quickly, it became a phenomenon and took on a life of its own.
In short – no. Some people claim to have never experienced these mystical “tingles”. There hasn’t been a lot of research into ASMR in its relatively brief history, so it’s unclear why some people experience it and others don’t.
Anecdotal evidence does suggest that different people have different triggers. There are many subcategories of ASMR on YouTube involving many different objects and techniques. For example, just whispering is enough for some whilst others enjoy crinkling foil, mic brushing and tapping.
The sensation itself also seems to vary. Some report tingling in their scalp, whilst others get it in their neck and shoulders. In addition, plenty of ASMR fans describe more of a ticklish sensation in their upper back. However, the emotional responses seem to centre around relaxation, comfort and elation.
As with many YouTube trends, there are lots of different ASMR categories to explore. Here are some of the most popular:
I like this one a lot. Not only is it relaxing, daily affirmations are a powerful secret to success for many people. Affirmations can help you get into exactly the right mindset, and they’re especially powerful when coupled with the feel-good sensation of ASMR.
Personal attention is one of the most popular ASMR categories. It involves whispering whilst stroking the camera to simulate physical touch.
Honestly, listening to someone chewing is my personal idea of hell but it seems a lot of people out there are really into it. You can find long ASMR videos consisting solely of mouth sounds, like eating and lip-smacking.
In these videos, ASMRtists attempt to trigger the sensation through the use of various objects. For example, they might crinkle paper, tap and brush the microphone, wrap gifts or even play with slime. Some even use fake ears!
Role play videos are essentially the same as personal attention, but with a theme. An ASMRtist might pose as a doctor, a friend doing your makeup, a hairdresser or even a tattoo artist – although I’m not sure what’s so relaxing about getting inked. The point is, there are a million different possibilities out there and hey, whatever works, right?
Finally, we have the latest – and arguably greatest – ASMR trend out there: pandemic themed role play. ASMRtists are using their videos to not only soothe but also educate their audience on how to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first of these was by popular artist ASMR Darling, who created a roleplay video back in March testing the viewer for coronavirus whilst debunking popular myths.
ASMR might not be for everyone, but for many people it’s been a saving grace during the COVID-19 pandemic. I recommend trying a few different types of videos and finding out what works for you. Who knows, it could be the remedy you never knew you needed!
Are you a fan of ASMR? Let me know in the comments below. For more on taking care of yourself during COVID-19, check out this post on at-home beauty treatments or my guide to being productive whilst working remotely.
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