ASMR for me is the name for a delicious sensation that I have had since I was a child. For years I knew it simply as “nice goosebumps” or “tingles” and for its ability to render me into a lightly vibrating pile of goo.
Discussions about a mysterious sensory experience started showing up on the internet in 2007. These posts had most people confused but some knew exactly how this delightfully odd experience felt. In 2010, this sensation was given the name ASMR (which stand for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) by Jennifer Allen.
What Does it Feel Like?
My experience starts often as a light tingle at the base of my skull, it feels initially a bit like static, but without the zappy pain when you touch something. This tingle then spreads over my head, down the back of my neck, down to my elbows, radiating down my spine where it then gently envelopes my legs finally ending up at my toes.
As the tingle spreads across my body in gentle, languid waves it raises tiny goosebumps all over my flesh. These are not like the ones you get when you are cold, these are the kind you only get with delight.
Then the feelings of peace, safety and utter relaxation take hold of me. I sink slowly into this world of sound and tingles feeling all that ails me slip away, for as long as I stay in this moment. It’s sort of like the best hug in the world.
ASMR is brought on by different stimulus or triggers in different people. It is thought that these triggers are often related to a time when we felt safe as children or in your formative years. This explains one of my main stimulus, which is white noise. My mum would hoover if she wanted me to sleep as a baby. White noise has since, been one of my main triggers. This oscillating fan video is my idea of heaven.
Something shared by almost everyone with ASMR is the gentle consistent nature of their trigger. No sudden, sharp sounds are used nor appreciated. The point is to lull and soothe the subject. I find relaxation and attain an ASMR experience from certain TV shows. The most obvious one to mention here is The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. Initially, I watched this because I found it interesting and strangely soothing. Now, I can enjoy the scuff of brush on canvas and the dulcet tones of Bob Ross for an entirely different reason.
Looking into other people’s triggers has me baffled. For the sake of research for this article, I actively sought out the top ASMR videos on YouTube for the first time. I will be frank with you here and say there was a lot of creepy whispering, baby voices and wet mouth sounds. It made me feel ill and I could not sit through an entire video.
This is the weird thing about ASMR, it’s a deeply personal experience. It’s quite common amongst individuals with ASMR to have a strong hatred for sounds that others adore. I can’t stand loud chewing, mouth breathing or any smecky, wet mouth sounds in general. This explains why I couldn’t cope with those beloved videos such as Maria Folds Towels.
This is the biggest question individuals with ASMR get. Why listen to odd noises?
Well as we’ve discussed, we get an almost euphoric buzz from our experience. According to some studies, ASMR is thought to release a feel-good cocktail of endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.
It is little wonder, therefore, that those who are able to tune into this experience have reported many health benefits from decreased stress levels through to better chronic pain management. Many use ASMR to help them sleep or alleviate panic attacks. Being able to completely remove yourself from your current situation via extreme relaxation can also help you attain clarity about problems.
I use ASMR for panic attacks, depression, anxiety, stress, pain management, insomnia, simple relaxation, problem-solving, writing, creating art – pretty much everything. Almost guaranteed, everything I have ever created has had me using ASMR at some point during the process.
Can Everyone Experience ASMR?
There are a few schools of thought on this. It seems as though some of us are more sensitively wired than others. Perhaps this sensation occurs on a low-grade level with every human being. Individuals who report having ASMR experiences may interpret this sensation with a keener intensity.
We all have different tolerances to things in our everyday lives. One person’s perfectly seasoned food is another’s over salted nightmare. This sliding spectrum of sensitivity might be key to understanding the ASMR response.
If you have ever experienced frisson with music, it is more likely that you can experience ASMR for yourself. Frisson and ASMR share a few similar qualities and it is thought the responses might be somehow linked with one another.
My own experiences with ASMR leads me to believe it is possible for anyone to have this response. At the very least be able to achieve a low level of bliss from finding their special, comfort noise. The key to this is finding out what your own personal triggers are and understanding how they work for you. Remember this is a personal experience.
I find my most intense responses happen over headphones. This is perhaps one of the reasons I always carry mine around with me. I use white noise apps such as Ambio and Lightning Bug (both available on Android). Sleep Waves for Windows is another white noise app that I use a lot. I find I am able to mix a customised set of sounds which will trigger an ASMR response in me easily. They all allow you to save your mixes. So you just turn the app on and press play to get your moment of bliss.
With ASMR, there is an aspect of giving yourself over to the sound. So I can hoover without turning into a puddle of delight. This is because I am concentrating and not allowing myself to sink into the moment. For me, there is a conscious decision to slide gently into this sensation or not go there at all.
If you would like to explore this experience for yourself, I suggest trying a few of the videos I have linked in this article or perhaps one of the white noise based apps previously mentioned. Use headphones and make yourself comfortable. You have to feel safe (to some degree) before you can begin with ASMR. Close your eyes and take in a deep, slow breath, hold it for a moment and let the sound fill your head before exhaling. I find sometimes humming at the same base frequency of my trigger can induce a greater sense of euphoria. Whatever works for you, don’t be afraid to listen to different sounds and keep your mind open.