A mere 12 days had passed since I had left my hometown to stay in my college hostel, 800 kilometers away for 4 uninterrupted, hectic, chaotic and unpredictably frustrating months. A form of stress busting I had inclined towards recently was YouTube browsing during breaks. On one such day, I needed immediate peace of mind and YouTube came to rescue with a weirdly satisfying recommendation:
I had recently finished watching Hawkeye and evidently, I was going to watch any decent video that had Hailee Steinfeld in it. Moreover, ASMR was something that I had probably skimmed through some time ago but never really knew what it was. So, after patiently going through two YouTube ads (I hear they’re planning on playing 5 advertisements before showing the main content now. That’s just great!), I finished watching the video and unexpectedly came out with a feeling of relative peace and calm as compared to what was going on before. So, I continued exploring more such videos posted by various creators and almost every time experiencing it made me feel a bit unburdened. Understanding the “what” and “why” behind all this is what you will be reading next.
ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is a tingling sensation that occurs in response to a gentle and soft stimulus, generally starting at a point near the scalp and going all the way to the back of the neck. According to psychologists, not only do we experience the aforementioned tingling sensations, but ASMR also initiates a feeling of peace and temporarily relieves stress.
The foundational science behind why these feelings are associated with ASMR is that parts of our brain that are responsible for emotional arousals, concentration and decision-making (median prefrontal cortex) are activated. Although it is a good time to mention here that ASMR majorly affects people who are relatively more sensitive to the environment, so don’t worry if you don’t find yourself to be one of them. But, now you might be wondering that what exactly it is that causes ASMR. There’s an answer for that too, in the form of ASMR triggers.
These triggers can be audio, visual or the most obvious one, i.e. touch. The trigger classifications may be similar but the triggers themselves could be something else. I might get the discussed upon sensations by listening to someone scratch a piece of fabric, the reader might experience the same sensation but by listening to people discreetly mumbling into the mic. So unless you end up rewatching the same videos, you’ll never be 100% certain of what triggers ASMR for you.
In recent times, researchers have been alerted towards the applications of ASMR in improving mental health. Since we now know that ASMR is able to replicate certain sensations without the need of contact, that is, the sensations that you experience via ASMR are observed to be physiologically similar to the ones experienced during actual contact. ASMR is also being looked at as a form of therapy in the near-future. But to be certain of this, more and more people need to be convinced that ASMR isn’t just something weird and it might help us to understand our own minds better than what we know currently. There is a good possibility that ASMR might be used in treatments of certain mental conditions.
The most we can do from our side is to probably understand what effects ASMR has on our mind, and if they’re inclined towards something positive, to not ridicule it and instead support the claims that might just help make the world a better place someday.