How Learning About ASMR has Completely Deepened My Outlook on Mental Health Treatment

I kept thinking “What is it about Bob Ross, the Painter?”

I use to wonder if I was the only person in the world who binge watched Bob Ross’ painting videos when the tv shows ran a marathon re-run of his shows. I could never figure out what it was about this skinny, white man (who wore an afro and painted landscapes) that just relaxed me… I knew he wasn’t “my type” so it wasn’t a sexual or a romantic connection that kept me frozen in time, engaged in each episode for hours.  Eventually after several months and years of failed attempts at figuring out the connection I just dismissed my feelings as admiration for his artistic abilities — I was a fellow Artist at that time (sketching not painting) and I just deduced that I was drawn to his ability to effortlessly create an elaborate outdoor scene while fully engaging in a monologue. I just thought I was impressed (shoulder shrug). Fast forward some 10 plus years to 2018 and I’m just now learning about ASMR which stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. I now realize how much ASMR played a key role in my compulsive need to watch Bob Ross videos as a teenager.

What is ASMR?

Let me stop here and insert some information into this post about what ASMR is (for those who have not stumbled across this acronym before). German Lopez wrote an article for VOX called “ASMR,  explained: why million of people are watching YouTube videos of someone whispering“.  In this article he explains what ASMR is and how it’s impacting those who experience it.  He writes:

ASMR is the term for the sensation people get when they watch stimulating videos or take part in other activities- usally ones that involve personal attention. Many people describe the feeling as “tingles” that run through the back of someone’s head and spine. Others say the feeling is deeply relaxing, and can even cause them to fall asleep.

To my fellow naughty thinkers whose minds immediately went into “the gutter” when they read “stimulating videos”: ASMR is not about sexual stimulation. However, I will admit that there are some individuals who interpret their sensations as sexual or sensual. Of course, anything can be used or misused in a sensual, sexual manner but I don’t want you guys to lose the entire point of this post which is how ASMR can be used in a non sexual, healing way.

The ASMR University describes it as  ” a variety of soothing sensations due to a variety of gentle stimuli. So, what types of stimulation does someone typically encounter ? There are external triggers such as someone touching your hair or whispering to you and there are also internal triggers such as meditation and focused thinking.  Four of our five senses are what appear to me to be the key players in this experience. As our senses are triggered and stimulated the sensations experienced create a resounding, rippling in the body that results in relaxaing tingles and chills. For me, it feels like I’m melting.

So, What  Does ASMR Have To Do With Mental Health?

Chronic stress  is one of the the most significant causes of mental illness and is an issue that could be managed with ASMR (maybe not ASMR alone but to include ASMR).  You might be suprised to learn that experiencing stress is not actually a health concern; there is something called good stress (eustress) which helps to motivate us towards achieving goals and helps us rise to meet challenges that lead us towards being a better version of ourselves. However, chronic stress (which almost everyone I know is experiencing) IS actually something to be concerned about as it often communicates to our body that we are under attack which sends our entire body into overdrive leading to a system shutdown of sorts. “It can surpress your immune system, upset your digestive and reproductive systems, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the aging process. It can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems” [Helpguide.org]. Stress can both lead to and cause mental health issues to worsen.

Most of the common methods used to “treat” stress related issues and anxiety  in Western Medicine include psychotropic prescription medication and talk treatments such as CBT/DBT. While I’m not a proponent of prescription medicine, I am a major advocate for talk treatments which to me is a power we each posses to release and heal through conversation. However, there are some holistic healers and complementary health practitioners who recommend treatment methods such as engaging the senses and learning how to relax which I appreciate because it ties in well with the ASMR and what I consider to be original, natural medicine.

Stress involuntarily kicks our body into survival mode and when left in this mode too long our body loses its ability to support the flow of positive energy needed to operate at our most optimal state; creating what we know as (chakra) energy blockages. See, the body wasn’t created to remain in survival mode for a prolonged period of time, it was made to withstand cycles of duress (only cycles). We were designed to “hold up” under periods of stress and then relax into periods of rest and rejuventation (rinse and repeat).  When we are not able to replenish ourselves or “put back” the energy and life that was taken from us while stressed we are forced to go against our natural rhythms and cycles leaving only one real outcome which is a complete system malfunction. Imagine a cell phone that was constantly being used but never charged or rebooted… its only a matter of time before that cell phone will involuntarily run out of “juice”. That same fate is the fate of someone who struggles to rest and recharge…this is where ASMR comes in.

I can’t even say that some of the ASMR techniques are new because massage therapists and other holistic therapies have been incorporating quite a few of the triggers for some time now but ASMR definitely is not receiving the amount of attention that it deserves as a legitimate treatment option for chronic stress.

Let me just end here because I can really  rant.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it! ASMR and Mental Health are two topics that are dear to my heart as my formal education is in human services and my souls purpose is to facilitate healing. I’m currenltly honing my skills as an ASMR Practitioner and am always seeking to spread the word about more holistic methods of healing ourselves and unblocking our chakra’s.  If it feels right to you, I’d love for your to become one of my supporters. Energy work and holistic healing in general require a certain level of support.  Wanna know how you can support? Just keep reading!

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