ASMR – what is behind the tingling in the head?
ASMR is a social response and is said to explain the feelings of comfort, relaxation and sleepiness it promotes. The areas of the brain that ASMR activates are associated with hormones such as dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins, all of which can promote these feelings.
From A like crackling with aluminum foil, to B like stroking the microphone to Z like zooming in and out, ASMR artists in their YouTube videos lead their fans through a wide variety of sounds, called eating, hand, and mouth sounds. And they receive real-time compliments and nice reactions from her fans, who thank her for the wonderfully relaxing moments and the cozy goosebumps.
Mission accomplished! Because exactly such reactions should trigger so-called ASMR videos in viewers. But what exactly is hidden behind these four letters?
ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.
ASMR is a pleasant tingling sensation that is often described as a gentle electrostatic discharge. This tickling usually starts at the scalp and spreads down the neck to the shoulders and lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes. Many people found this feeling very relaxing and soothing.
Where does the phenomenon come from?
The ASMR phenomenon originated in the – where else could it be – internet. More specifically on an online forum on the website Steadyhealth.com, where people came together with one sensory similarity: a pleasant tingling sensation in the back of their head. The term ASMR was then coined in 2010 by Jennifer Alone along with a Facebook group of the same name, according to the website Asmruniversity.com.
The first YouTube channel called WhisperingLife was published in 2009 as the portal further reveals. And it apparently didn’t take long for ASMR to become a YouTube trend. According to an estimate by researchers at the University of Sheffield, there were more than 13 million videos available on YouTube in 2018. According to media reports, the first German ASMR videos were published in 2012. ASMR artists in this country who can look forward to a proud number of subscribers and loyal fans of their homemade ASMR videos.
How does the relaxation method work?
These comforting tingles are known as “tingling sensations” in ASMR circles. They are caused by certain stimuli, so-called “triggers”. These are acoustic, tactile and visual stimuli.
Tactile stimuli can be gentle touches on the head, for example. Visual stimuli can be videos in which the protagonists perform everyday activities, creating soothing sounds. So it stands to reason that American artist Bob Ross is regarded by many as an ASMR pioneer.
Anyone who can still remember the iconic painter from the 1990s knows why. In 403 episodes of his TV painting course “The Joy of Painting” he painted himself into the hearts of his viewers, even if they had nothing to do with painting. Probably because his extremely soothing voice combined with the constant sound of the brush and the soft scratching of the spatula on the canvas had an extremely relaxing effect.
These sounds are called acoustic triggers in the ASMR scene. This includes sounds generated, for example, with the hands or fingers, the mouth or using various everyday objects.
The soothing feeling is often boosted by ASMR videos on YouTube, as well as real-world moments of positive, personal attention. People around the world report ASMR as useful for reducing stress and falling asleep, with potential benefits for clinical conditions such as anxiety, insomnia and depression.
The most popular acoustic triggers:
- · Brush sounds: sounds generated, for example, with a hairbrush or a comb
- · Eating sounds: sounds made while eating, such as chewing certain foods
- · Gamer Sounds: The game sounds like operating a joystick
- Hand Sounds: Sounds made with hands
- Inaudible Whisper: Whisper
- · Liquid sounds: Sounds with liquids such as shaking containers with liquids
- Mouth sounds: sounds made with the mouth, such as clicking or smacking
- Scratching sounds: scratching or stroking sounds, such as scratches on your fingernails or
- · Tapping: Tapping on various objects with your fingers or fingernails
High-quality microphones are used in the relaxing videos to provide optimal sound and the most intense tingling experience possible. To bring as much variety as possible to their subscribers’ ASMR experiences, the ASMR artists are always coming up with new ideas for their videos, such as role-playing games that directly engage their viewers.
The most important thing about these videos is that they address the viewer directly. ASMR fans find this supposedly personalized attention calming and relaxing.
Using EEG to record brain activity, researchers found that ASMR was associated with a robust change in five frequency bands across a wide range of brain regionswhere ASMR amplifies low-frequency oscillations and decreases high-frequency oscillations in the brain.
How can you use ASMR for yourself?
Whether you want to wind down after an extremely stressful day, relax on the weekend, or have trouble falling asleep – perhaps accompanying ASMR videos can also help you relax and switch off after a stressful week at work. But maybe not. However, this does not necessarily mean that you are not susceptible to ASMR.
YouTube is a great and free source of various sounds, such as SLEEP SOUNDS.
Perhaps visual triggers that are staged less in a whisper just speak to you more. Then the painting course videos with Bob Ross will probably appeal to you more. But maybe you can also switch off much better with a meditation podcast, a soft-spoken audio book or quiet music. Or with gentle touches or a massage.
Early research has shown that ASMR can get you and your brain in the right state for deep, healthy sleep by promoting relaxation and theta brain waves. Other benefits. People who enjoy ASMR often report less anxiety, fewer headaches, lower blood pressure, and more.
5 tips for ASMR beginners:
- Take enough time to watch the ASMR video at your leisure.
- Make yourself comfortable in a cozy place.
- Listen to the video with headphones to hear the sounds as intensely as possible.
- Watch multiple videos to explore as many triggers as possible and discover what appeals to you the most.
- Do not go into your first ASMR test with too high expectations and be unbiasedly influenced by the ASMR artists and triggers.
What does science say about the ASMR trend?
Even though not everyone feels the tingling sensation, the ASMR trend has long since reached people who do not feel the pleasant tingling sensation. Because even without the tickling in mind, the relaxing videos are clicked to relax or help them fall asleep, according to the results of some studies.
However, not everyone with ASMR responds to appropriate stimuli. And not everyone who is ASMR-afin responds to the same stimuli, as previous studies have also shown.
In a May 2022 study published in the journal Experimental Brain Research, researchers found that participants experienced relaxation and a lower heart rate while watching an ASMR video, whether they felt the tingling or not. Participants who did experience ASMR also reported reduced feelings of depression.
In fact, several scientific studies have been conducted on the topic of ASMR. However, there is still no concrete scientific definition for this phenomenon. However, that ASMR videos stimulate certain areas in the brain and have positive effects, such as a reduced heart rate or a better mood, scientists have already been able to measure in corresponding studies, such as that of Sheffield University in 2018.
So there is still much to discover about the ASMR phenomenon. For example, to what extent ASMR can be used for therapeutic purposes for the masses.
And something seems to be going on. Because in addition to successful ASMR artists on YouTube, some companies have now also discovered the ASMR trend for marketing purposes. For example, Swedish furniture retailer IKEA released a 25-minute promotional video in 2017, titled Oddly IKEA, in which a woman strokes bed covers, furniture and interior accessories in an ASMR-like manner.