Do you find whispering, the tapping sound of a paintbrush when it hits the canvas and any other low or crisp sound relaxing? If this is the case, chances are that you have the ability to experience ASMR. This is by no means some strange superpower that you have to learn how to control, but a rather natural physical reaction to stimuli your mind finds calming. The debates about this phenomenon have taken the Internet by the storm, but there are still quite a few unanswered questions surrounding the topic of ASMR.
Understanding What ASMR Actually Is
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response is defined as a sensory phenomenon that is followed by the feeling of relaxation and a tingling sensation in the scalp and shoulders of an individual who experiences it. ASMR doesn’t just happen spontaneously, because it has to be triggered by an external stimulus. Whispering is the most common trigger of ASMR, but it is far from being the only one as people who are capable of experiencing this sensation have reported that anything from personal attention to tapping fingernails and vacuum cleaner noise can send tingles through their bodies.
Even though this topic is still not researched properly, as it is still a relatively novel discovery, most studies indicate that sensation originates from the back of the head and that it moves downward through the body, in some cases as far as the limbs and the lower back. Most people describe ASMR as a pleasant and relaxing sensation that improves their mood, while some individuals reported that ASMR helped them reduce chronic pain. In addition, researchers found that ASMR is an effective stress-reduction method, much like music or mindfulness.
All the data, scientists have accumulated so far, indicate that ASMR has a positive effect on the well-being of a person experiencing it, but there is still a significant number of people who approach this topic cautiously. Their doubt is magnified by a growing amount of online video content that is labeled ASMR, but that is in its essence pornographic. The ASMR advocates, on the other hand, continue to claim that this phenomenon is real and that preventing people from abusing it is virtually impossible. Be it as it may, the ASMR community on YouTube keeps on growing as well as the number of videos in the ASMR category that contains content that can trigger this sensation.
Why is Defining ASMR so Difficult?
ASMR is a deeply subjective experience, which complicates the process of defining it. That is why the best way to approach this topic is to focus on its physical manifestations, rather than how different people experience ASMR. In the research study conducted by Poeiro, Blakey, Hostler, and Veltri the authors state that: ‘Research on aesthetic chills has assessed the physiological parameters that correspond with these complex emotional experiences, typically by presenting participants with chill-inducing stimuli (e.g., self-selected musical excerpts) and measuring aspects of physiology.’
Despite the fact that ASMR has been associated with a number of similar physical and emotional experiences, it is safe to say that ASMR has to be regarded as a phenomenon that is fundamentally different than frisson, synesthesia, misophonia, aesthetic chills or shivers-down-the-spine. More research is needed in order for us to fully grasp the correlation between soft sounds that trigger it and benefits of the ASMR for both mental and physical health. However, all stress reduction techniques we know of can help reduce the risk of heart diseases or high blood pressure. In addition, the effects of depression, anxiety or even schizophrenia can be diminished by various relaxation techniques. That is why ASMR can potentially have positive effects on a person’s well-being, but the only trouble is that a person must be capable of experiencing ASMR in order for it to have an impact on that thier health.
What are the ASMR Advocates and ASMR Critics Saying?
The debates about whether ASMR is actually a real phenomenon or a made up mass media story have started during the 2000s, while the first studies in this field were published in 2013. There is still a lot we don’t know about ASMR, since we don’t understand why some people can experience this sensation and others can’t or why particular sounds like paper rustling or loud chewing trigger ASMR. In any case, the fact that the nature of this experience is both visual and auditory served as a basis for the creation of a huge online community.
The ASMR categories of Twitch or YouTube contain millions of videos that are designed to trigger the experience by using different objects to produce soft, relaxing sounds. Many of these videos have been harshly criticized for being erotic or for their weirdness. Nonetheless, YouTube channels like Gentle Whispering ASMR or MassageASMR have hundreds of thousands of subscribers, which clearly shows just how popular this genre of video is.
The AMSR videos that contain pornographic content are probably the main reason why ASMR videos have been under so much scrutiny. It is impossible to control how someone uses this experience or to prevent them from producing sexually explicit content with the sole reason of making a profit. The truth is that ASMR is as sexual as massage or any other relaxation technique and that it is up to the people how they are going to use that technique.
ASMR videos can help their viewers relax and get into a calm, meditative state that reduces the stress levels and ultimately improve their quality of life. Our fast-paced lives can often be incredibly stressful and the rapid growth in popularity of AMSR videos indicates that more and more people are looking for relaxation techniques that can assist them in restoring their peace of mind. Even though none of the studies have succeeded in proving that ASMR can be used to treat depression or anxiety, many of the people who are capable of experiencing this sensation have reported that they feel better after watching an ASMR video. Do you think that ASMR videos can improve mental and physical health? Leave a comment and share your opinions with us.