Do certain sounds make your head tingle? If so, you’re right on trend. That pleasurable, calming, or euphoric sensation in your head, scalp or brain (and maybe your spine) is an autonomous sensory meridian response—ASMR for short—and triggering it with sounds and images has become a fixation for many.
The feeling isn’t new, of course, but it didn’t have a name until 2010. Jennifer Allen, an ASMR enthusiast who started the first Facebook group devoted to the subject, felt that the phenomenon needed a term that would help people talk about it without “fear of ridicule” (not surprisingly, “weird sensation” was no longer cutting it).
Since then, ASMR has received academic attention, spawned a self-help book, and exploded on YouTube. You’ll find millions of videos of “ASMRtists” whispering, tapping, crinkling, scratching, squeezing, folding, and chewing for the purpose of sparking tingles. Major brands are making ASMR-themed commercials—check out Michelob’s soothing Super Bowl ad starring Zoë Kravitz—and celebrities are whispering their way through ASMR interviews. (If you’ve ever wanted to watch Jake Gyllenhaal pop bubble wrap, well, you’re welcome.)
Researchers have found that nearly everyone who pursues ASMR does so to relax, fall asleep or ease stress. One study concluded that ASMR’s calming effect is similar to that of other stress-reduction techniques, such as mindfulness or listening to music. This might help explain pop culture’s renewed interest in Bob Ross videos—according to a recent article in the New York Times, the painter is a “well known ASMR trigger.”
Nature offers plenty of pleasant, calming sights and sounds. The next time you’re at the cottage, see if these stimuli get your brain tingling. Can’t make the trip this weekend? Simply click each one to listen online.
- Birds chirping
- Loons calling
- Wind in the trees
- Canoe paddles stroking the water
- Crackling fire (with and without a thunderstorm)
- Water lapping against the dock
- Crickets chirping
What cottage sounds would you add to this list?