ASMR stands for ‘Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It has been known about for a long time, but it didn’t actually get that name until 2010. The term describes the relaxing and pleasurable tingling sensation that some people get on the scalp after hearing certain sounds. It became a YouTube sensation a few years ago, yet not everyone experiences that sensation. However, those that do feel them often find them pleasant and relaxing in a way that is hard to describe.
Studies suggest that ASMR can help to reduce your heart rate and improve your attention and memory1 and that it could also help people who are suffering from depression, anxiety or chronic pain. Some people believe that ASMR is more effective than meditation, but what would happen if you combined the two?
How ASMR and Meditation Can Go Together
According to the ARMR Research Project2, the way the body responds to certain gentle stimulation is thought to be a genetic response that helps to mitigate stress hormones. It’s an evolutionary response that many believe goes back to the way that primates would soothe upset or nervous offspring. Think about how you would take care of a child with a minor injury. You would likely hug them, kiss their forehead, or talk to them quietly. Doing that releases oxytocin and melatonin, which help you to relax.
There is a common misconception that meditation involves ‘zoning out’. This isn’t strictly true. Meditation is really about being aware of what is going on around you, and being mindful of specific things. You focus on being in the moment and think about what is going on in your mind. With quiet meditation, you might sit and focus on your breathing, or listen to the birds tweeting outside. Meditation isn’t done in a quiet space to allow you to ‘zone out’, it is done in a quiet environment to give you fewer things to be mindful of.
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ASMR is a response which some people have to meditation. For others, it is a form of relaxation. ASMR gives you a pleasurable experience, and it is good for body relaxation. It is not the same as meditation, though, and you could not use ASRM to help you get into a meditative state. If you are very tense, upset or feeling pain then ASMR could help you to relax to the point where you would then be able to move on to meditation and in that respect, they do go hand in hand, but the link is not much deeper than that.
ASMR and Affirmations
Some ASMR recordings and videos focus on neutral sounds such as people brushing their hair or flipping through a magazine. Others have people using vaporizers to produce clouds, or a voice whispering nice phrases. These are all examples of areas of ASMR that could help to improve a person’s mood or focus.
Indeed, ARMR is used by some people who struggle with insomnia to help them doze off3. Listening to ASMR recordings triggers a feeling of relaxation, and since many videos are quite long, it means that you can simply lie back and listen to them while your mind wanders.
The Type of Sound Matters
Studies show that certain types of sound can be distracting and can impair focus and learning4. Some sounds, such as the random gentle sounds classed as white noise can be relaxing and can also help to mask other, more distracting noises. Other sounds are more likely to take us out of ‘the zone’. Loud noises and conversations are problematic because we naturally want to listen to them to determine if there is a threat, or to understand what is being said.
A lot of the sounds on ASMR videos are simply particularly pleasing versions of white noise. Even the videos that do use speech will usually have short bursts of words followed by longer sections of rustling leaves, tapping, crinkling or other more neutral noises.
Whispering and speech-related ASMR is definitely not conducive to meditation, because your brain will want to focus on the sound of the voice, and this means that you can’t focus on achieving a meditative state. The more white-noise focused ASMR is better for meditation, and those who are skilled at meditating may be able to use ASMR as a part of their environment. For example, ‘nature’ ASMR videos could be a good choice for a yoga studio. In most cases, however, silence or natural ambient sound is better.
Science is Yet to Identify a Clear Link
Academic research into ASMR is still in its infancy, but one recent study, which focused on 284 individuals, looked at mindfulness and ASMR. The study participants first watched two ASMR-causing videos, to determine whether or not they had ASMR, and then they completed two tests: the Toronto Mindfulness Scale and the Mindful Attention and Awareness Scale. It was discovered that the people who experienced ASMR scored much higher on the Mindful Attention and Awareness Scale, and also scored highly on the Curiosity scale of the Toronto Mindfulness Scale. This suggests that ASMR could be, in part, caused by similar personality or biological characteristics to mindfulness.5
If that theory is correct, then that could explain why people who experience ASMR lean towards mindfulness and other practices, and often find them easy. It’s not so much that ASMR helps with them, but that if you can experience ASMR you are going to find mindfulness and meditation easier.
If you find it hard to meditate, don’t despair. There are lots of tricks and systems that can help you and ASMR is just one of them. Yoga, aromatherapy and even normal exercise can all help people to achieve a meditative state. Everyone has something that can help to reduce their stress levels. It just takes some people a little bit more experimentation to find it than it does for others.
To enhance your ASMR /meditative experiences, check out MONQ’s Zen blend, a scientifically crafted blend specifically created to encourage a sense of calm within the user. Zen is available in both MONQ R and the original MONQ diffuser format.
Photo credits: DCStudio/shutterstock.com, gpointstudio/shutterstock.com, SFIOCRACHO/shutterstock.com, AfricaStudio/shutterstock.com