"Joshua Tree (Agena)", Ancient Skies Ancient Trees by Beth Moon
If you are reading this, it is unlikely that you are experiencing ASMR. If you were experiencing the perceptual condition now known as Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, you would be in a better place, tingling away from your head down your spine in a hypnotic golden bubble. If you could hear the keys of my keyboard click as I type, it might be enough to send you into the experience. As I write and think about ASMR I can't quite get there. For me, writing, reading, and talking require a kind of focus and engagement that dissolves or makes impossible the outside-of-time quality of ASMR.
ASMR is the trance-like state that you might feel when someone expertly and unselfconsciously investigates something about or belonging to your person--how the stitching was done on your shirt, for example. Or when someone explains something to you in a gentle, soft voice, or carefully turns pages in a book. You may be watching someone organizing the contents of his or her handbag in the most fantastically fluid way. Or maybe someone is giving you a haircut under the influence of inspiration, and you feel like you just happen to be supplying the perfect head of hair for the vision. Or there is a soft repetitive sound that allows you to drop in. These are all scenarios that ASMR performers replicate through role play on youtube videos.
While I find ASMR videos intellectually interesting, watching videos of napkin and paper folding, or whispered shoe collection show and tells don't work for me because I know that they are intentionally made to stimulate ASMR. The pretense extinguishes the sparkle because the surprise and genuine attention are missing. Observing another person that I find skillful, in command of a task at hand is fascinating. But the person is usually in such a flow that he or she seems entirely unaware of an audience. Still in the witnessing there is an interpersonal connection.
This interpersonal aspect helps produce those fairy like seconds of mellow electricity in which we are flooded with dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin (the hormone that helps establish bonds between humans). Research results from 2016* indicate that ASMR correlates to a blending of multiple resting state networks in the brain. It follows that this state of calm brings a diminished adrenal response, a softening from the mode of fight or flight. This of course means more energy for the body to dedicate to skin repair. So aside from the relaxing nature of ASMR, (which would be enough for me), there is likely a beneficial side effect for skin health, however subtle.
It is strange to think that the standardized name for this ancient phenomenon was established only as recently as 2010 through internet communities. Along with the industry that has begun to develop after the naming there are also more research efforts--clinical studies, white papers and so forth. There is still much to learn. The same 2016 research profiled the ASMR personality type as exhibiting increased openness to unusual sensory stimuli, and possibly a "reduced ability to inhibit sensory-emotional experiences that are suppressed in most individuals." I always thought of it as a gift and know that even the alphas among us agree to lose a few seconds at worst, or at best, to this ephemeral experience. I never thought of it as an inability (which makes it sound unwanted) to filter out an experience, but rather as an opportunity for relaxation produced by a mundane life event that elevates that very event to a magical realm--a sort of beautiful amplification, a chance, a win.
Yes there is a lot of research yet to be done before anyone can accurately say anything. However, I am willing to believe that when used in moderation (meaning not losing hours a day to ASMR youtube fixes) ASMR is an interesting tool for the skin care toolkit that costs nothing. The happy chemical release is most definitely good for skin repair, but entering a field of deep and happy repose feels to me like a waking nap. And we all know that getting adequate sleep to maintain hormonal balance is critical for great skin, and for managing acne. Who knows, maybe one day we will read that as with some exercise, short bursts of regular ASMR are more effective for our health than an extra hour of sleep. ( I'm making this up, obviously). So maybe it's worth trying to listen more carefully for the random patterned tapping noises of daily life, or remember and resuscitate your last ASMR experience once with your morning tea, once with your afternoon tea, and once before drifting off to sleep. Maybe. Quite possibly. Happy floating!
*Stephen D. Smith, Beverley Katherine Fredborg & Jennifer Kornelsen (2016) An examination of the default mode network in individuals with autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), Social Neuroscience, 12:4, 361-365, DOI: 10.1080/17470919.2016.1188851