Last night I went for a train ride.
When I grew weary of the whistles and horns, I spent some time in a haunted castle. And, from there, it was a natural meander over to a medieval village, complete with a working blacksmith, who pounded his blazing iron while I read a book and drank hot tea.
It was nice, but not my usual happy place. I prefer to spend hours in a library room with a crackling fire while a thunderstorm rolls through the darkened night. I also love a cozy coffee shop, where rain patters against the windows, light jazz plays and you can hear the faintest sounds of other customers chattering and stirring cream into their coffee.
No, I haven’t invented a time machine. I’m just indulging my love for digital ambient rooms. These are the multitude of free online videos with their gorgeous scenery and cityscapes that make you want to crawl inside your computer and sink into the couch in front of the imaginary fire, surrounded by walls of packed bookshelves. Or the dreamy apothecary room where the soothing sounds of magical potions plays for hours at a time, or at least until you fall asleep.
Ambient rooms are closely related to ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) videos and, if you haven’t investigated this cultural phenomenon, you could be missing out on a potential happy maker.
Do an online search for ASMR and you’ll find thousands of YouTube videos, made mostly by women, with millions of views. Start clicking and chances are good you’ll be engulfed in the deep, mysterious waters of this popular pastime many turn to for the elusive sensations the videos are said to elicit.
These singular sensations are hard to describe. Many call them “brain tingles” and say the feeling typically begins on your scalp and moves down the back of your neck and upper spine. And what causes these tingles? Very particular sounds, such as female whispering, hands crinkling paper against a mic, makeup brushes sweeping over skin and manicured fingernails tapping on a hard surface.
And nobody really understands why some are so affected by these gentle noises.
“Thanks to the internet, A.S.M.R. seems to have leapfrogged the science entirely. Our foremost ‘proof’ of A.S.M.R. comes from some people searching for the term and others making videos to populate those searches. All these YouTube users may be right that the feeling is real, but the scientific research still lags far behind,” wrote Jamie Lauren Keiles in The New York Times in 2019.
Still, there’s been some research to indicate the worthiness of watching said videos. A 2015 study found ASMR can help short-term improvement of chronic pain and depression. Another found participants who experienced ASMR showed an increase in positive emotions and feelings of social connection, along with drastically reduced heart rates.
I know, ASMR is a head-scratcher. And yet, it can be strangely pleasurable, especially if you’re one of those affected by it. I’ll be honest; I don’t seem to get those brain tingles.
At the same time, I still enjoy listening to the tapping, scratching, page turning and crinkling sounds. It’s easy to see why many use ASMR as a relaxation tool or sleep-aid. And some of the videos are so weird I can’t help myself from going down the rabbit hole.
Go on, give it a try. And if those brain tingles aren’t happening, come join me in my campfire by the ocean ambient room, complete with crashing waves, bonfire and pop-up camper. It’s delightful here.
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