Brexit, COVID-19, and the pandemic-related economic downturn have all contributed to a spike in unemployment rates in various countries. These events have caused widespread anxiety and stress among individuals and communities. The impact of such chronic stressors on mental health cannot be overstated, with many studies linking them to depression and other mood disorders. In light of this, it is more important than ever to explore alternative forms of stress relief, such as Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR).
Taking care of our mental health is essential, allowing us to manage stress, overcome challenges, and cope with ups and downs. Prioritising mental health improves our physical and emotional wellbeing, with studies having shown that people who take care of their mental health have better immune function, lower risk of chronic diseases, and better overall quality of life. There are many ways to take care of our mental health – ASMR being a more recent method of treatment leading to good mental health.
The phenomenon of ASMR began to gain traction in the mid 2000s, before being officially labelled by Jennifer Allen in an online forum in 2010. Articles surrounding ASMR began appearing not long after, with the earliest I could find dating back to 2013. The article states that, as of the time of writing, there was very little research into the phenomenon, although notes that many users find it ‘relaxing’. Further research has shown that ASMR is more likely to be experienced by those with higher stress levels, suggesting that ASMR, as a phenomenon, is more specific to isolated individuals – which makes sense, considering the majority of ASMR videos involve the content creator caring for the viewer in some way, shape, or form (Trenholm-Jensen, 2022).
There is growing evidence to suggest that ASMR can have numerous benefits for mental health and wellbeing. One study published in the journal ‘Elsevier’ found that participants who experienced ASMR reported significantly reduced levels of stress and increased feelings of relaxation compared to those who didn’t (2022). Another study, published in Health Shots online magazine, found that ASMR can trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone associated with social bonding and stress reduction (2020). These studies suggest that ASMR can have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing. Additionally, the release of oxytocin suggests that ASMR may have social and emotional benefits, potentially helping individuals to feel more connected to others and reducing feelings of isolation.
ASMR has played a large role in my life. I’ve known the experience since I was quite young, about eight-years-old. I remember, for whatever reason, a girl in my class combing my hair and whispering gossip to my friend whilst she stylised me in the manner of her choosing (spoiler, it wasn’t very flattering). My annoyance, however, was short-lived. In those few moments, I experienced a sense of utter calm, a tingling that could only have come from my brain. I didn’t know this was ASMR at the time. I just knew it as a pleasant feeling — not as intense as love, and not as gentle as a cool breeze on a hot day — an addictive feeling, as though someone were gently stroking a feather across the surface of my cerebrum. It’s odd to describe in words, but the truth about ASMR is that it’s like gently falling into a stranger’s arms whilst they, odd as it may be, calmly assure you that, no matter what else is happening, you’ll be okay.
One of the most appealing aspects of ASMR is its accessibility, as it is free and easy to access; YouTube, Tiktok, Instagram, or dedicated ASMR apps – all are free at the point of use. Moreover, ASMR requires little effort or time commitment, making it an ideal option for people with busy schedules. Unlike therapy or counselling, which may require weeks or months of sessions, ASMR can be enjoyed in just a few minutes. Additionally, ASMR can be a helpful tool for those who may not feel comfortable reaching out to a counselling service or purchasing or being prescribed medication. The anonymity and privacy of enjoying ASMR in the comfort of one’s own home can be appealing for individuals who are reluctant to seek professional help for stress or anxiety.
While ASMR has been found to have numerous benefits for mental health and wellbeing, it is important to note that it may not be effective for everyone. Some individuals may not experience ASMR, while others may find the medium uncomfortable or even triggering. Furthermore, while ASMR is accessible and free, some individuals may find that they need to invest in high-quality equipment or seek out specific triggers in order to experience the sensation. Moreover, there are still many unanswered questions about the physiological and psychological mechanisms of ASMR. While studies have explored the benefits of ASMR, more research is needed to fully understand how the sensation works and how it can best be used to promote mental health and wellbeing. For example, it is not yet clear how ASMR triggers the release of oxytocin or what factors contribute to individual variability in ASMR experiences. It is also important to be mindful of the possible financial costs associated with experiencing ASMR and to seek out high-quality resources that can help maximise the potential benefits of this phenomenon rather than limit access to the sensation. Overall, it is important to approach ASMR with a critical eye and to seek out high-quality resources that can help maximise potential benefits.
In summary, ASMR has become a popular tool for managing stress and promoting relaxation, with growing evidence to suggest that it can have numerous benefits for mental health and wellbeing. However, it is important to recognise that ASMR may not be effective or appropriate for everyone, and there are still many unanswered questions about how the sensation works and how it can best be used.
If you’re interested in exploring ASMR further, check out some of the most popular ASMR channels on YouTube, such as ASMR Darling, Gentle Whispering ASMR, and Gibi ASMR. These channels offer a range of ASMR content that may help you to discover what works best for you.