Although my grade 7 French class was often the most chaotic part of the school day, with students speaking out of turn and generally taking advantage of our kind, soft spoken teacher, for me it was the most relaxing time of day.
As the other students flirted, doodled in their notebooks, did anything but pay attention, I zoned right in on the lesson. This wasn’t just because I was ultra respectful, I must admit.
It was because the gentle sound of our teacher’s voice, the soothing way her delicate hand wrote on the chalkboard, her incredible focus despite all the disruption going on all made me feel profoundly relaxed. My scalp would tingle, and my shoulders would feel like I was getting a massage. Had my grade7 French class been longer than 40 minutes, it very well may have put me to sleep each day. Not because it was boring, but because it was blissfully peaceful and relaxing.
I didn’t tell anyone this of course. It seemed too bizarre. I didn’t want anyone to think I was a weirdo, getting pleasure from observing a sweet old lady write on a chalk board and talk.
It wasn’t until years later that I got my first opportunity to discuss this strange phenomenon with someone, and realize I was far from alone in my experience. I suffer anxiety, and before I started taking medication I often had a lot of trouble falling asleep. One night as I sat up surfing the Internet at 3 a.m. I noticed my brother was awake and online too. I started up a chat to complain about my insomnia, and he offered me amazing advice.
“You’re probably going to think this is really wierd, but try watching this. It’s super relaxing.”
He sent me a link to an instructional massage video by a lady called “Lita”. As I started watching, I realized my brother was right. The sound of her voice, and watching the calm, focused manner of her massage gave me the same tingly, relaxing feeling I used to get during gr. 7 French class. After my brother and I exchanged a few humorous messages making fun of ourselves for enjoying watching someone else get massaged, I read through some of the video comments, and realized many others were experiencing the same sort of thing.
ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is defined as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory or cognitive stimuli. So feeling tingly when someone brushes your hair, or whispers in your ear counts as ASMR. Triggers for ASMR vary slightly between those who experience it, and not everyone does experience it.
There isn’t a lot of scientific data available on ASMR yet, although a quick internet search will show you there are many anecdotal reports of it out there.
What interests me the most is how it can be used to help relieve anxiety, depression and insomnia. First of all, if you are lucky enough to experience ASMR, you will realize that when those sensations are being triggered, you automatically become mindful. You totally focus on what you are hearing, seeing, feeling, because it feels so darn nice. Unpleasant feelings of sadness or anxiety are pushed away. Watching videos designed to bring on ASMR can give great relief to someone suffering mental illness. I think it’s a worthwhile place to start trying out being mindful for someone new to the practice.
I also do not believe its a coincidence that many common ASMR triggers involve someone giving some sort of care to another. To be cared for is a universal need among animals. It is also something that lacks in the lives of many who suffer mental illness. Perhaps indulging in some ASMR could encourage sufferers to put more effort into their own self care, or even to seek out care from others.
My goal for this article is to bring awareness to the topic of ASMR. It’s a real thing. Although it’s not widely recognized, if you experience it, you are not strange, you are fortunate! I encourage you to explore how it can help you feel less anxious, less lonely and how it can help you relax enough to fall asleep. Check out the links below to see if ASMR can benefit you. Unlike alcohol, drugs, or other potentially harmful methods you might use to cope, this is 100% safe. It is certainly worth a try!
Also search “Disney Collector” videos on You Tube.
Thank you for reading!
Be Brave, and Talk