Whether it’s a new app, a viral music video, or a recording of a woman (debatably) saying “Laurel” or “Yanny,” there’s no escaping the online trends that take the Internet by storm and then fade over time. Online sensations usually come and go – but some manage to maintain a lasting impact, like the devoted ASMR community.
ASMR – the relaxing, static-like, sensory phenomenon, has generated a multi-million-strong fanbase across Reddit and YouTube, and the community is continuously growing. In a new study published in The Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, scientists at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom found that ASMR, which stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, can actually produce a decreased heart rate amongst participants, in addition to feelings of relaxation in the brain that mimic the effects of meditation.
“ASMR is described as a ‘brain tingling’ sensation that starts at the crown of the head and then descends through the rest of the body,” explains Ana Sandoiu at Medical News Today. “[Websites have] witnessed thousands of testimonials from people talking about the relaxing, static-like feeling that they get from specific stimuli, ranging from the sound of whispering to that of crumpling paper.”
In order to find out whether or not ASMR has tangible health benefits among listeners, Guilia Poerio, of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Psychology, conducted two studies: one online, and one in the laboratory. After collecting responses from a sample size of over 1000 online participants and the 112 recruits for the laboratory study (half of whom self-identified as ASMR experiencers), Poerio found that individuals who experienced ASMR also reported higher levels of “excitement and calmness,” as well as “lower levels of stress and sadness” compared to the measurements taken prior to the study.
The laboratory experiment also revealed that ASMR experiencers had a dramatically slower heart rate when watching the ASMR videos. “Specifically, the heart rates of the ASMR experiencers were, on average, 3.14 beats per minute lower than those of non-experiencers,” Sandoiu says.
Poerio says ASMR videos do indeed benefit the body’s physical and mental state, but only in those who can experience the feeling. So if you’ve never heard of the phenomenon and you’re looking to improve your brain health and reach a state of mindfulness, it can’t hurt to give it a try.
“What’s interesting,” Pioro concludes, “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.”
The science behind the stress reduction, relaxation, and health benefits of ASMR is still relatively new, but it’s increasingly convincing. If you’re in need of some calming downtime, ASMR may be worth a shot.