Have you ever watched a TikTok or video and felt an inexplicable calm feeling? Or a tingling sensation on your head, like someone is brushing your hair? That sensation was recently identified as autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). ASMR is a euphoric sensation that begins at your head and slowly spreads throughout the body in response to certain triggers. According to ASMR University – an ASMR information hub – people can react to visual, auditory or tactile stimuli but responses rely most on whether the stimuli is nonthreatening and predictable. ASMR’s goal is to create a calming sensation through gentle movement and actions, which is why whispering is the most popular ASMR stimuli. If you scroll through TikTok often, like I do, then you’ve probably seen the #ASMR tag on certain videos that show repetitive motions or white noise-like audios. These are common examples of ASMR triggers.
Although the name sounds scientific, there is little research on the topic. There are currently only 11 published papers on ASMR, so scientific elements are vague at best. ASMR University’s tagline defines it as an “art & science.” It seems more “art” than science to me, but how much harm could watching some videos do?
ASMR is by no means new. Its popularity began in 2009 on YouTube channels. WhisperingLife was the first channel and has grown exponentially since then. Originally ASMR videos and podcasts were lengthy. Creators intended for viewers to listen for long sessions and to sometimes fall asleep, but as TikTok’s popularity has soared, short ASMR videos have taken off.
I first heard of ASMR – where I first hear of everything – on TikTok. The tag #ASMR was filling up my TikTok feed, and I didn’t know what it was. All I knew was that I liked all the videos with the hashtag. After some research, I realized why I liked them so much. Although the videos were short per the app’s nature, I still felt calmer after watching them. Usually, the constant stream of talking and song snippets made me feel stressed, thoughtful and helped me disassociate from my long to-do list, but never calm.
[Related: Why I Haven’t Downloaded TikTok]
I’ve compiled a list of all the TikTok accounts that help calm me down. Some of the accounts aren’t necessarily ASMR; however, I find them calming. Do with them what you will.
This creator is a teacher and makes mesmerizing ASMR writing videos using her whiteboard and tablet. Her script and print handwriting are gorgeous and fit the classroom environment. I’m jealous of how neat and whimsical her handwriting is. The videos are not accompanied by music, but rather just the slight squeak of her whiteboard marker. She is also very responsive to her comments and frequently writes messages her followers request, so just leave a comment and the chances are good she’ll see it.
I have followed this creator since she first started making TikToks, and I check her page every day to see if she’s posted – that’s how much I love her videos. She is a woman in Maine who bought a stunning three-story, fixer-upper home this past summer and renovated it with her dad. The steady demolition of old plaster and the removal of floorboards are satisfying to watch, as is the thorough cleaning she does at the end of most videos. Something about sweeping up a dusty floor is exceptionally calming to me. She does use voice-overs with her videos so it’s a visual ASMR rather than auditory. The house has sweeping spiral staircases, layers of wallpaper and all the quirks from its original construction in the mid 19th century. I watch these videos to follow the creator’s journey just as much as I watch them for the ASMR content.
This creator is a chiropractor in Orlando, Florida, who records adjustments she does on her patients. She is affectionately referred to as the Dragon Lady, partially because of her last name and partially for how she seems to magically fix her patients’ misalignments. The sound of her patient’s joints cracking and the crinkle of the sanitary paper moving is incredibly relaxing and gives me brain tingles. I am careful when I watch her videos because I will get mesmerized. Suddenly an hour has slipped away, and all I’ve done is watch people get their backs cracked. Her practice does take appointments via Instagram, so if you need a good chiropractor and are willing to make the journey to Orlando, contact her office.
Charles Gross is a content creator now and has been for several years, but he was a Hermès collector and reseller. Now, he makes content on luxury items, Birkin bags and coded luxury. Although his content is fascinating, and his style is fierce, that’s not why I watch his videos. The pace, tone and rhythm of his voice is so even and calm I watch his videos on repeat. His voice is whisper-like and slow, unlike most TikTok creators I come across, so it’s a refreshing break from my For You page.
Nail videos are ridiculously common on TikTok. Nail art is fun to watch and usually accompany some audio about a saucy story. But this creator does Russian manicures, which focus on cuticle care, don’t use acetone and use precision tool bits to take down the rubber base. Although her designs are cute, I watch her videos because she cleans the nail bed precisely. I get a satisfying feeling after seeing the nail transformation. She also does a series on male nails, in which she normalizes giving men manicures, which I appreciate because I always love a guy with clean nails.
This is a YouTube channel rather than a TikTok channel, but I find the longer videos here helpful. It’s a mix of videos with music and without. All of them are usually about eight hours long. The videos mimic sounds from nature and public places, like café’s, roaring fires, thunderstorms, cozy libraries, tropical beaches and seasonal locations. I play these while I study or read. I struggle in complete silence because silence can sound overwhelming to me. So I use these in place of white noise. Lots of the videos include jazz in addition to the natural noises, which mimic the classical music I would normally listen to while studying. These don’t necessarily give that tingle sensation that ASMR is known for, but they are calming and create a sense of focus even when I’m feeling scatterbrained. Plus, Calmed by Nature accompanies with the audio tracks with beautiful visuals that capture a calm aesthetic. In fact, I’m listening to the Fall Coffee Shop Bookstore Ambiance track as I write this article.
As my title might indicate, I am now all about ASMR. I listen to it while relaxing after class, on my break at work, trying to fall asleep and especially on study breaks. It’s an accessible, quick and effective way to manage stress and anxiety – at least until I can fully manage it. So maybe it’s not completely scientific or proven yet. Although, it makes me feel better, and that’s all that matters.