30 Apr 2017

Inspire Aspire - ASMR

Before you pop the $100 question, here is the four-word answer (and I cheated for it!): ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. As cryptic as it appears, it is even more cryptic to explain it. Basically it involves the senses but is no pseudo science - merely sensations that are triggered by a relaxation technique. A word of warning: it may come out woo-woo to some of you. Or you may finally be able to put a name to that sensation you have experienced for years (maybe since childhood) under certain circumstances. Call it goosebumps, but more generally felt as a tingling, kind of a hot tickling, that radiates from the crown of the head down the nape, across the shoulders and down the spine. A fuzzy head, feeling cosy, comfy and sleepy, almost in a meditative state.

A feast for the eyes and more! Certain sight, sound and/ or smell trigger ASMR.

It appears that the sensation (or state) which is probably as old as humanity, has only been officially reported, documented and researched over the best part of the last decade, and debated in earnest by the wider online community. Some individuals have even become internet sensations (pardon the pun) and household names in the process, and have spread the word. From being unacknowledged altogether until recently, ASMR has turned into a juicy lucrative business on dedicated YouTube channels and the likes. Maria at Gentle Whispering is an ASMR phenomenon and the go-to ASMR personality! She clocks 925,000+ followers and some of her videos have garnered more than two million views within the space of three months, and a staggering 10 million views over 12 months! In my eye, Maria is the best ASMRtist out there! Her videos are relaxing and send you tickled up to sleep!

Now the very first time I came across ASMR as such was through YouTube astrologer Karen Lustrup who had recorded a short relaxation video back in 2014, aimed at lulling insomnia sufferers to sleep. I realised straight away that I had indeed experienced ASMR before, for many years but had no idea this had been recognised and identified under some name.


Tyndall Figures, Lake Hoare, from "Gondwana" (2012), photography by Diane Tuft

Actually as a way of relaxing in the evening and basically fall asleep I find certain astrology channels to be conducive to this state of relaxation with all the tingling effects that go with it. Therefore sometimes astrology as a topic becomes secondary to me, if all I seek is a little respite that sends me to Nod.


Anything soft, delicate or muffled may trigger ASMR.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of ASMR triggers. First and foremost, anything soft, delicate or muffled is a potential trigger:

  • Sound triggers: light breeze rustling tree leaves windcharms, the harp, bells and other twinkling sounds rain drizzle, gently tapping against a window pane or a car roof, ocean waves crackling woodfire, flickering candle twigs cracking underfoot in the woods certain TV programmes (cookery, make-up, wildlife, gardening, cultural visits to châteaux and art museums) and this depends entirely upon the programme and the personality of the presenters, their demeanour (poised and relaxed, thus no Megyn Kelly material!) and voice (calm, serene, soft, slow, empathetic and mellifluous) cool jazz music, slow, moody classical music, ambient electronica light office environment (typing, rustling paper, muffled sounds, humdrum of printers, phones and other electrical equipment) guided meditation, yoga ― whispered conversations, etc.
  • Sight triggers: slow, meticulous, detail craft work (knitting, embroidery, dress-making, drawing, painting, calligraphy, jewellery-making, ikebana, bouquet-making), baking, clothes ironing, etc.
  • Smell triggers: perfumery/ beauty counters in department stores, aromatherapy (essential oils, depending upon personal preferences and susceptibility) percolating coffee, frothing up cappuccino, home-baked cake straight out of the oven ― (un-)wrapping gifts, sweets, etc.
  • Touch triggers: light warm breeze gentle beauty and wellness treatments (facials, head and body massage, jacuzzi/ bubble bath) and hairdressing soft materials (silk, sateen, lace, fur, feathers) touch (caress, stroke, tickle), etc.

Oftentimes a combination of triggers work out the ASMR. Not everyone is aware that they experience ASMR, yet if they do, might dismiss it. Approach the subject with caution with your grandma or your boss: you might get a funny look or two!

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