Is ASMR Good For You? A New Study Shows It Could Have Mental Health Benefits
If you can't get enough of those whispering videos on YouTube, you now officially have permission to watch as many as you want because ASMR is good for you. Yes, you read that right, ASMR whispering actually has both mental and physical health benefits, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS One. If you're not in the know about ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), and you're looking for a way to relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression, or insomnia, this technique involving listening to gentle whispering, tapping, and hand movements can induce what's been called a brain orgasm.
While not everyone gets ASMR (or, accordingly, the appeal of these videos), many people anecdotally report feeling good after listening to ASMR triggers, which generally involve soft whispering or shushing noises. This first-of-its-kind study from the University of Sheffield found that people who participated in watching ASMR videos felt calmer and had lower heart rates than those in the control group who did not engage in ASMR.
"ASMR is the sensation experienced by some people in response to specific sights and sounds, described as a warm, tingling, and pleasant sensation starting at the crown of the head and spreading down the body," the University of Sheffield explained on its website. "The 'tingles' — sometimes described as 'brain tingles' or 'brain orgasms' — are typically accompanied by feelings of calm and relaxation."
If you're ready to go down an ASMR rabbit hole, there are more than 13 million ASMR videos on YouTube that run the gamut from whispering to eating to listening to someone get their hair brushed. "Lots of people report experiencing ASMR since childhood and awareness of the sensation has risen dramatically over the past decade due to internet sites such as YouTube and Reddit," Dr. Giulia Poerio of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Psychology said on the university's website.
"However, ASMR has gone virtually unnoticed in scientific research which is why we wanted to examine whether watching ASMR videos reliably produces feelings of relaxation and accompanying changes in the body — such as decreased heart rate." In the study, aside from feeling relaxed, people who engaged in ASMR also reported feeling more positive and socially connected.
While ASMR devotees rave about the benefits, not everyone gets the brain tingles from ASMR because some people actually need to feel the touch of another person or hear the whisper in their own ear for their bodies to release endorphins, according to ASMR University's website. However, researchers were able to substantiate claims from those who did report benefits after experiencing ASMR by measuring participants' physical response, which were similar to those of other relaxation modalities.
"What’s interesting is that the average reductions in heart rate experienced by our ASMR participants was comparable to other research findings on the physiological effects of stress-reduction techniques such as music and mindfulness," Dr. Poerio noted. Basically, ASMR works the same way meditation does by releasing endorphins that promote an overall sense of wellbeing.
Still think ASMR is just hyped-up new-age mumbo jumbo? In the journal PLOS One, the study reported that researchers found "consistent evidence that ASMR videos elicit tingling sensations and promote positive affect (calmness and excitement). Crucially, these responses occurred only in people who identified as having ASMR and only when these people watched ASMR videos."
ASMR research is still in its infancy, but the study bodes well for the future of whispering as stress buster and as a vehicle for an increased understanding of human emotions. "ASMR is a complex emotional blend comprising of activating and deactivating positive affect," the study concluded. "ASMR may offer an opportunity to better understand individual differences in the ability to experience emotional complexity, and the potential positive effects of mixed emotional experiences on health and wellbeing."
In a world that's so loud you might have trouble hearing yourself think — even if you don't get the brain tingles from ASMR — everyone can benefit from a little whispering and quiet time. Try having a friend read this article to you in a whisper or hushed tone and see how you feel afterward. The truth is in the tingles.