Crackle, splat, scribble, tap.
Inside a cozy library, I hear the low rumble of thunder and the light downpour of rain from beyond the window. The fireplace flickers, spatting sparks, as I'm writing at my desk.
None of this is real but merely a video on YouTube. In actuality, I’m completing precalculus problems at the kitchen table while this animated scene plays in front of me.
Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), according to Healthline, is a tingling sensation from the head to the spine that one experiences when listening to certain noises or seeing certain motions. It is said to promote feelings of calmness and peace for reasons unclear to scientists.
A few months ago, I decided to play ASMR videos on YouTube while doing my homework, as I heard they were helpful to study with. I had always preferred a silent environment when working on assignments or essays, but nevertheless, I gave ASMR a try.
I was amazed by its mysterious effect on my memory, concentration, and productivity, and now, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to my old ways of studying. Perhaps after reading this article, you won't either.
Relaxation Results in Better Learning
According to a study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, self-reports have demonstrated that experiencing ASMR generates feelings of tranquility. Physiological tests support these reports, as an ASMR experience is associated with a "reduced heart rate and skin conductance level." These bodily reactions decrease stress and anxiety.
When the nervous system is at rest, this improves recollection of previously-learned information and "increases [the] brain's ability to remember new information," as reported by Psych Central.
Since ASMR stimulates a relaxed feeling, and relaxation enhances memory acquisition and retrieval, ASMR is a beneficial tool to utilize while studying for exams, or if you're like me, solving math equations.
ASMR Enhances Concentration
Theta waves, a type of brainwave, “have associations with attention, alertness, and enhanced perceptual and cognitive performance,” according to research from the University of Adelaide. ASMR helps induce theta waves, which can create “a meditative mental ability” or flow state.
As stated in a study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “reports of ASMR experiences [...] appear to share some features with the state of ‘flow,’ which is the state of intense focus and diminished awareness of the passage of time that is often associated with optimal performance in several activities.”
Sometimes, it’s hard to motivate myself to sit down, open my notes, and study them. Sometimes, it’s difficult to keep my focus while doing boring worksheets. But ASMR has helped me achieve flow.
It’s like I’m in this weird state of relaxed alertness; I’m calm, but the wheels in my head are constantly spinning, and I’m constantly productive. When I look at the clock after being “in the zone,” I’m shocked at how much work I’ve accomplished in that period of time.
Choose ASMR That Helps You Focus Best and is Relaxing
YouTube, not surprisingly, is the best resource for finding ASMR videos, and there are a wide variety of them.
Some people make soothing sounds with their mouths or with random objects into a microphone. I've seen people act out scenarios, too. For example, they will pretend you are a spa patient and give you (rather, the camera) a facial. Others will record themselves studying, so you hear the clacking of a keyboard, or the scratching of a pencil against a notebook.
The animated scenes with background noises (and sometimes quiet music) are my favorite ASMR videos, and personally, I have found them to be the most advantageous when studying. I love the dimly lit libraries with fireplaces and stormy weather, or coffee shops with chatter and the clinking of dishes.
I’ve also found many of these animated scenes that appeal to my nerdy personality. Some days, I’ll tap into my Harry Potter obsession and “transport” myself to the Ravenclaw common room or the Leaky Cauldron. Or, the Star Wars geek in me will choose to go to planet Naboo where I'll listen to whirring spaceships and R2-D2 chirping in the distance.
ASMR that works for me and helps me study may not benefit you, and that’s okay. That’s the beauty of the ASMR community on YouTube: it tends to everyone’s preferences.
So light a candle, get comfortable at your desk, find what ASMR floats your boat, and get cracking on that homework. Those theta waves will be rolling in no time.