What is ASMR?
I first heard of ASMR when I was living in Saudi Arabia, trawling the internet at night, as everyone who lives alone in a studio apartment is wont to do. For the uninitiated, ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response – but I always think it’s audio sensory something something. Maybe mental relief?
At first glance you’re likely to do what I did in 2015: scroll through the endless offerings on YouTube, note a strong representation of fairly attractive young women, wonder if it’s actually soft porn, click on a video to see what it’s about and find yourself in a doctor’s room, with a kind-faced “professional” peering at you through the time and space of internet ether, pretending to touch your face or maybe shine a light into your eyes to check for some erroneous condition. Some of them are really into whispering. which I find annoying, and some of them, like PPOMO pictured below, don’t film all their face.
What’s it for?
Why watch an ASMR video, you may well ask. I think the correct answer is that ASMR is supposed to trigger “tingly” sensations through your body, which release endorphins or boost serotonin, thereby improving your mental and physical health. Think of when you hear a stunning slice of music or catch onto the plot twist of an excellent movie, or when a kitten or small child climbs on to your lap unbidden. You know those tingles? The phenomena is also sometimes referred to as frisson.
Another answer may be connected with how I first came across ASMR. More people live alone than before and more people might therefore be lonely. Even if they’re not physically alone, there may be an absence of physical connection and so these YouTube ASMR gurus may fill the gap. They’re extremely soothing and companionable, if you can find one you like. In her novel Touch, Courtney Maum suggests people in NYC mind end up getting haircuts just for the company – and I don’t think that’s far from the truth.
I didn’t like any of the videos I flicked through when I was in Saudi and after that year, I didn’t live alone and wasn’t lonely so I forgot all about ASMR. But then I moved to Chicago and many things happened and I wanted help staying grounded and falling asleep.
Through one search or another, I landed on a woman from Staten Island, NY, who goes by the name of Lune Innate and administers distance reiki via her videos (as well as being a real life reiki practitioner). Her YouTube sessions are variously prefaced by an explanatory speech and a display of rock crystals or other paraphernalia, like Tibetan singing bowls, incense, smudges and even something called a selenite wand.
Does it work? Is it real? Who cares. The placebo effect is nothing to be sniffed at; she has a self-deprecating manner, insightful ideas about the vagaries of life, and is forgiving if you’re skeptical and would just like to watch along while you fall asleep, reaping none of the metaphysical benefits. Some of her videos are a little too talky or rock-focussed for my liking but the ones that include SLEEP in the title are good. (Personally I only listen, not watch.)
Then, after getting over my own ASMR skepticism, I graduated to the wondrous Olivia Kissper. She has tons of videos so I do advise caution. She’s really quite fruity and hilarious with make believe ingredients, methods and scenarios, including alien abductions and futuristic doctor’s officers.
She’s a master of the All Is Not What It Seems situation. “You come across a tree, but it is no ordinary tree: its leaves are amethyst drops!!!”
This might be too much for you but most of the ones with SLEEP HYPNOSIS in the title actually work. She does guided, self esteem-improving meditations and dreamy countdowns to zero, while infusing the ridiculousness with what sounds like legit psychology.
Give it a try, if you feel the need!