A soothing voice whispers in your ear and a lightning of tingles rushes through your body. The woman softly describes how she is going to massage your scalp as she taps her long fingernails across a head massaging device. She smiles lovingly into the camera and dances her hands through the air. Her words are safe and nurturing: “I love to comfort you.”
If you felt a wave of deep sensation, then you could have just had an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR).
Awkwardly nicknamed head orgasms or braingasms, ASMR was first coined by ASMR Research & Support founder, Jennifer Allen, who defines it as “a physical sensation characterized by a pleasurable tingling that typically begins in the head and scalp, and often moves down the spine and through the limbs.”
ASMR stimuli tend to be methodical and soft in nature like whispering, light tapping, and stroking. While the triggers vary by individual, most are referred to as “non-threatening stimuli.” This could very well be key in understanding why this practice is such a powerful stress relief tool.
The first time I encountered ASMR was about six months ago while I was browsing the internet for massage videos and ended up stumbling upon a woman speaking in a low voice gently sweeping the camera with a makeup brush. She was pretending to give the viewer a facial massage and I was immediately mesmerized. From then on, I fell asleep every night to a soft whisper providing me with the illusion that I was getting an organic facial done or being caressed by delicate brushes. I couldn’t afford the personal attention I craved so these YouTube videos sufficed as a stress-relieving, free alternative.
To learn what the technique is all about, I turned to ASMR Therapist (YouTube handle). “For me, it almost feels as if someone were lightly stroking the hair at the nape of your neck without ever being actually touched,” she said. She started her YouTube channel dedicated to these euphoric tingling sensations after discovering that other individuals were not only experiencing the responses, but could trigger them as well.
A young woman gazing affectionately at you and nearly fondling the camera with her finger-waving might sound bizarre and can be mistaken as sexual for the deep intimacy it cultivates, but the majority of users are not seeking that kind of pleasure from these videos. A study published in March 2015 found that 98 percent of participants use it for relaxation, while only 5 percent use it for sexual stimulation.
ASMR has been beneficial as an alternative treatment to prescription drugs for ASMR Therapist in managing her chronic pain and sleep.
“[E]ven if I don’t get the actual tingling sensation, just watching videos of people quietly and gently performing tasks helps me to relax and sleep without taking any pharmaceutical medications,” ASMR Therapist said.
“Just settling down and watching someone flip through a magazine or organize jewelry can help calm the mind and get me to a more restful place. The tingles are a bonus, and actually help in pain relief, similar to getting a massage,” the vlogger added.
Her viewers have gained similar support from the practice as well, using it primarily for relaxation, as a sleep aid, and for the tingling sensation.
But ASMR’s revolutionary impact remains in its human connection.
“I’ve had one mother write to me and express how thankful she was that my videos have helped her disabled child feel loved and reassured. This is the personal side of ASMR, many people feel the connection, it helps them with grief, pain, restlessness and helps us connect with others which is in itself very therapeutic.”
The elusive phenomenon of ASMR is gradually gaining popularity across the Internet with thousands of YouTube channels devoted to the practice, a published study, and even an IKEA commercial, but its misunderstood perception could be hindering it from garnering more mainstream notoriety in the wellness movement.
As ASMR Therapist points out, acupuncture and massage therapy were also once considered strange. Yet those assumptions have now been quickly eradicated as more individuals are reaping the positive aspects of these traditions. ASMR’s successes so far as an online niche craze is certainly signaling it’s got potential to become the next big wellness trend.
Would you be willing to try ASMR therapy? Have you felt this phenomenon before?
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