What is ASMR? A Beginner’s Guide

You must have heard of ASMR by now, even if you haven’t given into the trend and popped your headphones in to listen – if you haven’t, where the heck have you been?!

So, what is ASMR?

ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response. It’s best described as a pleasant, tingling, and relaxing sensation, or a brain massage, and is often triggered by particular sounds, sensations, or images. It usually starts around the head and scalp area and moves down the neck and to the top of the spine, but it can be experienced elsewhere on the body too.

There’s very little in the way of scientific evidence for ASMR as it’s a relatively new concept that was first coined around 2010, but generally speaking, it affects everyone differently and is triggered by different things. And not everyone experiences ASMR either. Of course, despite it being a modern concept, that doesn’t mean we haven’t been experiencing it for a very long time!

Did you ever find yourself feeling incredibly relaxed during storytime at school? Or when a friend played with your hair? Perhaps you had a doctor who always made you feel incredibly calm at your appointments? It’s possible that you were experiencing ASMR.

For many of us, our first experiences are in early childhood and are tied to teachers, peers, or medical professionals. I don’t remember my first experience, but I know it started when I was young. There would be certain people who I would want to listen to for ages because they made me feel super relaxed and they made my scalp tingle. Back then I had no idea what this was called – but I loved it.

What is ASMR good for?

ASMR can be helpful for many things, including:

  • Sleep: ASMR can help with sleep problems and insomnia, quietening the mind to help the listener drift off into a peaceful sleep.
  • Relaxation: If you have a hard time winding down and clearing your mind, then ASMR can be helpful. Some studies have suggested that ASMR videos can help to slow the heart rate, therefore, aiding relaxation.
  • Concentration: More and more people are turning to ASMR videos for background noise to help them concentrate on school or work tasks.
  • Depression and anxiety: The relaxation that ASMR can create may be helpful for those suffering from depression and anxiety. There are numerous ASMRtists in the community who focus on creating videos to help support mental health and who discuss their own journeys with depression and anxiety.
  • Meditation: Meditation ASMR is growing – if you don’t find the traditional guided meditations to be helpful, try ASMR.
  • Loneliness: There is a real sense of community on YouTube with regards to ASMR; listening to familiar voices and chatting with other subscribers in the comments can be beneficial in combatting loneliness.
  • Pain: Many have claimed to have experienced some relief from migraines and even chronic pain when listening to ASMR – this isn’t yet scientifically proven, but I know I’ve certainly enjoyed some respite from migraines thanks to ASMR. Even if it just acts as a distraction, this can prove to be helpful.

What types of ASMR are there?

ASMR is diverse – from gentle whispering videos to weird and wonderful roleplays. Many wrongly assume that ASMR is sexual, and while there is a sub-section of the community that focuses on creating sexualised content, most ASMR is created for relaxation, fun and escapism.

Some of the most common ASMR triggers are:

  • Whispering
  • Soft spoken
  • Tapping
  • Scratching
  • Writing
  • Typing
  • Page turning
  • Blowing
  • Kissing
  • Crinkling
  • Soft singing
  • Humming
  • Chewing
  • Fire
  • Water
  • Hair brushing
  • Personal attention
  • Massages
  • Role plays
  • Eye contact
  • Trigger words

How is ASMR made?

Anyone can make ASMR – all you need is something to record with; many ASMRtists start using their smartphone and a headset with a microphone. That’s certainly how my own journey started. The fancy sound and lighting equipment can come later!

The Blue Yeti is a popular microphone in the ASMR world – both for creators and listeners – because of the intense sound it creates, picking up the most subtle tongue clicks and breaths.

Which ASMRtists would you recommend?

Gentle Whispering is often hailed as the queen of ASMR – and she is wonderful. There are many huge channels in the space, including Gibi, ASMR Zeitgeist, ASMR Darling, Karuna Satori ASMR, RaffyTaphyASMR, and WhispersRed, but it’s always worth checking out the smaller, low production channels too as you can find some real gems.

My current favourites are:

I have my own YouTube channel too where I create ASMR content – I focus on spiritual videos a lot, but also make more generic ASMR. Take a look.