What is the meaning of ASMR?

Definition of ASMR

What is the meaning of ASMR?

ASMR (Autonomous sensory meridian response) is defined as a relaxed and contented feeling with a light buzzing in the scalp, similar to getting goose bumps, which radiates down the spine in response to stimuli such as sounds, actions or visual triggers.

The term Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response was coined by Jennifer Allen in 2010.

People use ASMR to help them relax, relieve stress, as an aid to sleep and to reduce anxiety, depression and improve their mental health.

Typical triggers are whispering, eating, massages, rain sounds, role play, makeup, painting and haircuts.

Understanding Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response

I thought it may be worthwhile breaking down and understanding why the phrase ASMR is used to describe the effects that it has on so many people.

Autonomous – so this means to be self governing, free and to make up your own mind and basically relating only to yourself

Sensory – relating to the 5 senses and nerve impulses from the sense organs to the nerve centres

Meridian – in Chinese medicine these are the pathways along which vital energy is said to flow. These are known as ‘qi‘ or ‘ch’i’. 

Response – in this context it is seen as being a reaction to something, the stimuli.

So bringing this altogether my take is that ASMR is how you experience your body responding to stimulation along your nerve lines.

ASMR and YouTube

Although the term ASMR was only originated in 2010 many people were aware of their own ‘buzzing’ feelings, how they got them and when they manifested themselves.

YouTube has enabled many people to get their ASMR tingles with many content creators making videos specifically designed to trigger ASMR episodes.

YouTube estimated that in 2021 there were 65 billion ASMR views of ASMR related content.

And while many people will still get real life ASMR tingles it is now easier than ever to view ASMR content online at any time of the day.

ASMR in the sand on a beach

Content of this article (12 minute read)

In a 2018 a National Library of Medicine study showed 81% of people had experienced ASMR in some way.

ASMR is seen as being a pleasant form of Paresthesia it has been compared with Auditory Tactile Synethesia and overlapping with Frisson. See Wikipedia to work out what that mens!

But that’s a bit dry and and a bit of a mouthful really, so if you are here hoping to understand what ASMR feels like, what are the benefits, what is the emotional connection and how to trigger ASMR, read on.

What does ASMR feel like?

For most people the way an ASMR episode manifests itself is by a tingling or light buzzing sensation at the back of the scalp that works its way up and down the neck and spine and into the arms and legs.

Kind of like the chills you get listening to your favourite music.
Many people describe it as being in a trance like state or fuzzy headed. Some go as far as saying it like having a ‘brain orgasm‘!

The overarching feeling is one of relaxation, being at ease, emotionally secure or in a meditative state.

The level and intensity of the ‘tingles’ can vary depending on the stimulation, environment and the individuals own state of mind at the time.

And sometimes, it just doesn’t happen, at least not for me. Can you force it? Well, sort of. If your usual triggers aren’t working there are plenty of other options out there to try and get things started. We will come on to that in a wee while.

And while you may know what your triggers are you may want to know where you can find out new triggers. And what you may also be interested in is what actually triggers ASMR in people and how can you set those triggers off?

What Triggers ASMR?

There are many different thing that will trigger ASMR in people, for some it’s a few specific things, for others it can be a wider range of sounds or actions.

But in order to actually get a trigger event you need to be in the right setting.

Being in a relaxed state of mid can help, whether naturally occurring or induced by mindfulness or meditation. (A good analogy is that mindfulness and meditation is like tickling yourself, ASMR is like having someone tickle you.)

And you need to feel secure and in a trusted environment where someone has the focus on you, and you on them.

In the real world, or real life, ASMR can be triggered when the context is right and the right sort of triggers for you are actioned. So this could be you observing someone doing a detailed task, having your make up done or your hair washed at the hairdressers.

In video, on YouTube for example, there is the additional context of your own situation and setting, that of the main characters and then the ASMR triggers. All of these need to be lined up to stand the best possible chance of an ASMR event.

So here are some of those trigger moments that can set of an ASMR occurrence assuming you are in the right setting whether online or watching on video.

ASMR Trigger Moments

  • Whispering – quietly spoken, often really slowly (personally I find that annoying) and with a soft undercurrent this is perhaps one of the best known triggers
  • Tapping – the repetitive nature of tapping on metal, wood or typing on keyboards, particularly with long finger nails
  • Eating, chewing, mouth noises – particularly when using binaural microphones to pick this up in detail and provide a ”surround sound’ experience – this one drive me nuts, not in a good way! See ‘Misophonia
  • Hair pulling – often seen in ‘Limpia‘ videos where the hair is gathered up and given a gentle tug
  • Grooming – any personal attention whether through make up, hair brushing
  • Watching repetitive actions – for example cleaning a keyboard, preparing food, tending a garden
  • Crinkly noises – often seen in massage videos where crinkly paper is placed beneath the head and is moved when the massage takes place
  • Close interaction with hands – particularly around the face, see make up tutorials, painting, measuring, healing actions, airport pat downs

What are the benefits of ASMR?

There are a number of benefits associated with using ASMR. Primary use would be getting to sleep, and as an aid for those who often wake up during the night.

The more general use of ASMR is to relieve anxiety, depression and ultimately enhance the individual’s mood. Typically those experiencing ASMR will have a reduced heart rate.

ASMR is a bit like watching comfort TV, you know what is going to happen. And a bit like TV ASMR videos are often repeat watches so you have the security of knowing what will happen and when.

As stated before ASMR is closely liked to Mindfulness and Mediation, where attention is played to living in the moment.

Some people use ASMR to help relieve chronic pain. Personally I have not done this but anything that helps one to relax has to be a good thing.

ASMR Genres and Channels

Nowadays ASMR videos populate YouTube and there are many genres of ASMR videos which trigger ASMR episodes.

What is interesting is that many of the category of videos were not intended for use in ASMR. Indeed ‘Unintentioanl ASMR‘ videos are one of the most popular types of videos to be produced and watched.

So much so we now have creators making videos for ASMR, to get the views, as their primary focus away from their original intention and market!

A classic example would be medical exams with the well known Dr James Gill having started out contributing to Warwick Medical School videos but he now has his his own channel of videos primarily aimed at the ASMR audience as well as he medical viewers.

There are many genres and sub genres of ASMR videos. Here are the main ones with example channels to illustrate them.

Often there will be crossover between two or more genres – for example massage videos will often include whispering and role play.

Of course in real life you may well find yourself in these situations and so of course providing you feel secure you may well be triggered into experiencing ASMR.

Massage ASMR

Massage – one of the most popular forms of videos. The repetitive nature, slow actions, quiet background, low voices and hand actions such as effleurage all contribute to creating a peaceful environment and ideal for triggering ASMR. Often thought to be the originator of modern ASMR, massages are extremely popular and can be quite varied in content.

From a regular full body massage on a massage table, to using a chair outdoors, more specific head, back, hands, legs, calves and feet massages also feature in their own right. There are also many variations using tools such as back scratchers, rollers, knives, cupping, moxibustion, Tibetan Singing Bowls, Qi Gong Meditation practices and duel masseurs particularly on Thai based videos.

Massage ASMR Channel – Shili TV

Whispering ASMR

Whispering – typically done in a close up format, often using binaural microphones to create a 3D, immersive and close contact experience. Primarily aimed at helping you get to relax and able you to sleep quickly.

Whispering ASMR Channel – Gentle Whispering ASMR

Medical ASMR

Medical – usually comprising of actual medical scenarios with real doctors in a learning situation, these tend to be the Unintentional ASMR videos. Or role play where medical examinations are conducted, often one on one with a Doctor being role played and a patient receiving the one on one attention. Palpations of lymph nodes for example. Soft spoken British accents tend to be very popular in this genre.

Medical ASMR Channel – Dr James Gill

Chiropractic

Chiropractic – the focus of many Chiropractic videos is on triggering ASMR by producing ‘cracks’ or ‘pops’ when the body is manipulated. These sessions are normally real life rather than role play but aimed purely at the ASMR viewers. the close contact and often low volume voices also contribute to the experience as the individual is usually assessed and then the chiropractic session takes place. Crinkly paper is often used to enhance and focus the triggers, being placed under the head or body of the person being worked on.

Chiropractic ASMR Channel – Chiropractic Medicine

Limpia ASMR

Limpia – gaining in popularity ‘Limpia’ from South America and Ecuador in particular focuses on removing negativity, bad luck, bad karma and blockages from the body by utilising local flowers which are used to ‘beat’ the person being treated. This aligned with traditional massage using local natural herbs and hair pulling are often performed with the recipient on a chair and often outside. Said to also help with addictions, phobias and fears.

Limpia ASMR Channel – Cuenca Limpia

Painting ASMR

Painting – probably my first introduction into ASMR, even if at the time I didn’t realise it and that ASMR was a thing! Bob Ross of course was the portal into all things soothing, his vice and demeanour, the gentle brush strokes was all hugely soporific.

The close attention to detail, hand movements, brush strokes and sounds of the brush on the canvas are all part of the appeal of painting for ASMR purposes. And of course with Bob Ross you get the slapping of the wet paint brush against the easel to ‘beat the devil out of it‘!

Painting AMR Channel – Bob Ross

Outdoors ASMR

Outdoors – Bushcraft ASMR is also one of those slightly unintentional ASMR niches. With a lot of wild camping, building of camps and stoking up fires and a lot of au naturel al fresco cooking these are often individuals out in the wilds doing their thing. Sometimes accompanied by dogs and occasionally out trekking in the snow or in canoes its quite a mixed set of activities that take place. One common theme is camping in the rain, which probably hits a lot of ASMR trigger points with the rain landing on the tent canvas.

Outdoor ASMR Channel – Joe Robinet

Nature ASMR

Nature ASMR

Nature – as above a big emphasis on rain, thunderstorms and inclement weather these videos are are made to help you relax, de-stress and sleep more easily. Typically these will run for a lot longer than the usual 30/60 minutes format of other ASMR genres. Many are on a loop format or run to ten hours and are based from tents, log cabins with fires, cars or out in the wild.

Nature ASMR Channel – Relaxing Ambience ASMR

Barber ASMR

Barber – super popular genre with lots of close personal contact, quiet talk, gentle ambience, often old school barbers, whether its hair cuts, hair washing, beard trimming, full wet shave, hair styling and very often massages there is a lot on offer from barbering ASMR. Often based from quirky locations in actual barbers shops from all over the world this has a strong following with regular outputs from its creators.

Barber ASMR Channel – Haircut Harry

Make Up ASMR

Make Up – very often one on one with tutorials and skincare routines, taking advantage of the closeness between participants, quiet voice overs, whispering and soft touch use of cosmetic tools. The emphasis here is sleep, relaxation via touch and sounds.

Make Up ASMR Channel – Latte ASMR

Role Play ASMR

Role Play – this genre covers a wide base of role playing situations but is particularly strong in the medical field, with Doctors examinations, Dentists check up, eye examinations, head lice checking, barbering, historical enactments as well as TSA Airport Security pat downs. So a lot!

Role Play ASMR Channel – Gibi ASMR

Cos Play ASMR

Cos Play – sort of a sub genre of role play Cos Play ASMR offers many unique angles for ASMR interaction through Anime characters.

Cos Play ASMR Channel – Jinx ASMR

Unintentional ASMR

Unintentional ASMR – it may seem a bit odd to have Unintentional ASMR as a genre but it is a surprisingly popular and effective for triggering ASMR. These videos can be quite varied, whether medical, interviews, TV programmes, Alexander Technique, make up – the list really does go on.

What they have in Common is that the videos were made with no thought of being ASMR focussed, but they are. And often we go in full circle where ASMR videos are made but set themselves up as Unintentional ASMR. But they really are!

Unintentional ASMR Channel – Pure Unintentional ASMR

KST ASMR

KST (Koren Specific Technique) ASMR – this is like a subset of Chiropractic ASMR as it is all about adjusting the body through acupressure using a tool such as the ‘Arthrostim. Kind of like an electric massager, although they can also be manual as opposed to a powered tool.

While not getting any pops of cracks the close up one-on-one attention and manipulation does set of tingles in those who also like massages and chiropractic ASMR videos. Often involves situational therapy, so treated while playing guitar or swinging a golf club, depending on the clients issue.

KST ASMR Channel – Van Every Chiropractic

Slime ASMR

Slime ASMR – be prepared for lots of squishy sounds to help release that serotonin and give you tingles! Whether it is working with clay, mixing up food, carving soap – or just messing about with slime its all good for ASMR.

Different types of sliminess wok for people. So it may be that crunch slime is your thing. Or slime with foam, or glossy slime? And it’s not just how it sounds. It’s also how is works visually. Squelch away to your slimy hearts content!

Slime ASMR Channel – The Best Satisfying

Most Famous ASMR Artists

There are lots of ASMR artists out there. Here a few of the more well known ones.

For more ASMR artists check out out Artists page and our New ASMR Artists page as well.

Summery of the meaning of ASMR – and how to get triggered!

We hope you have found this information useful, to understand what ASMR is, how to ensure the context or setting is right to create the best environment to potentially experience ASMR and then to know what events are likely to trigger an ASMR episode.

And hopefully you will have found some new genres to explore that perhaps you hadn’t thought of before.

Checklist

  • ASMR is a gentle buzzing starting in the head and working its way across your body
  • Be comfortable and secure in your surroundings
  • Know what ASMR triggers work for you – we are all different!
  • Experiment with new ASMR channels and triggers – they are everywhere!

Let me know in the comments which setting works best for you – is it at the hairdressers, watching people clean windows, getting your makeup done?
The list is a long one.

Happy triggers!

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