Do you notice a warm, fuzzy sensation in your body when someone whispers in your ear or plays with your hair? It’s called Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR for short. Why should you know about this? Well, because a recent study carried out by scientists at the University of Sheffield and Manchester Metropolitan University says that ASMR might benefit both your physical and mental health!
What Exactly Is ASMR?
As explained earlier, it stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It’s essentially a sensation experienced by some people in response to specific sights and sounds. It’s described as a warm, tingling and pleasant sensation starting at the crown of the head and spreading down the body and is typically accompanied by feelings of calm and relaxation.
Although there hasn’t been much research into ASMR before, this first-of-its-kind study might have unearthed its physical and mental health benefits.
More About The Study
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE on June 20, 2018, and comprised two parts — a large-scale online experiment and a laboratory study. The online experiment involved over 1,000 participants filling an online survey after watching a selection of ASMR and control (non-ASMR) video clips. In that survey, they stated how frequently they experienced 'tingles' and their emotional response to each video. Those who experience ASMR also answered questions about their common ASMR triggers and general experiences of ASMR.
In the laboratory experiment, the researchers from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Psychology studied the physiological changes that occurred when participants watched two different ASMR videos and one control (non-ASMR) video in a laboratory setting. Half of those who took part in the study were recruited because they identified as experiencing ASMR while the other half were recruited as people who did not experience ASMR, but were of similar age and gender to the first half.
The study found that those who experience ASMR showed significantly greater reductions in their heart rates when watching ASMR videos (an average decrease of 3.14 beats per minute) compared to those who do not. They also showed significant increases in positive emotions including relaxation and feelings of social connection. They said they experienced the lowest levels of sadness and feelings of stress.
“Our studies show that ASMR videos do indeed have the relaxing effect anecdotally reported by experiencers – but only in people who experience the feeling. This was reflected in ASMR participants’ self-reported feelings and objective reductions in their heart rates compared to non-ASMR participants,” said Dr Giulia Poerio, of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Psychology in a press release.
She went on to comment, “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.”
This doesn’t mean that those who don’t experience ASMR have to live with raised stress levels their whole life! There are other techniques to let off steam, like breathing techniques and some self-care tips. Yoga can also help in this regard.
However, if you experience ASMR, you can now enjoy a de-stressing experience along with the warm fuzzy feeling!