When I was younger, I would sleep with my parents and occasionally ask my mom to tell me a story. These stories were adventure stories that combined my love of animals and my dream of exploring with something to calm me down. They involved me as a grown-up adventurer, Indiana Jones-style, exploring the world searching for the most unique animals on the planet. This adventurer would travel the African landscapes, the North American deserts, and the South American rainforests looking for the most beautiful creatures on the planet. Sometimes, I would even chime in my own personal ideas as to where the story could go. I honestly don't remember a whole ton from many of these stories, but there's one element that I do remember that stuck with me forever.
During an exploration of the North American desert, my mom put her hand on my back and acted out various animals by mimicking their particular movements. My favorite of these was when my mom would act like a tarantula, the eight-legged creature slowly moving up my back. To anybody who hates spiders, this sounds morbid or macabre, but to me, who knew the hand was a fake spider, this action combined with my mom's soft voice soothed me to sleep like nothing else I knew. I can't remember when we stopped telling those stories, but I remember asking my mom many times to let the hand tarantula crawl on my back.
For years, I searched for something similar to this feeling. I looked on YouTube various times, always searching for keywords along the lines of "soft speaking" and never finding quite the right thing I was looking for. One day, by miraculous coincidence, a video of this nature was finally recommended to me one night in middle school. It was from the YouTube channel TheHonestGuys, and it was what they called a "guided meditation." Those are two key words I never would have thought to search into that bar, but clicking on that video brought me immense joy. The soft voice of the narrator combined with the beautiful scenery brought back that feeling that I had been searching for.
Somehow, these guided meditations were combined with the word "ASMR." This term floated around my consiousness for a while, but the first ASMR video I remember vividly is from a woman who has since deleted all of her videos, Hailey of WhisperingRose. One of my favorite ASMR videos was her reciting a story that she was told as a kid -- a young librarian falls in love with a girl, and when he helps a witch find shelter from the cold weather, she offers him a love potion if he can gather the materials for her. When he can't bring himself to make her drink the love potion, the witch reveals herself to be the girl's mother and that the love potion was fake -- only the person who truly loved her would allow her to choose on her own instead of forcing her to love him. It was such a beautiful telling of a simlpe yet charming story, and it was one I constantly came back to before she deleted her videos.
Over the years, I've heard many people criticize ASMR for being strange or creepy or even like a fetish. Even though I've always seen where people come from when they say that (especially with some of the weirder ASMR videos out there), I've never been able to see it that way. I've found ASMR channels that are genuinely able to soothe and calm while also making videos that are uplifting, reassuring, and beautifully made. Channels like Gentle Whispering ASMR and Gibi ASMR always make creative and calming videos centering solely around simple triggers. My personal favorite of all of these channels, though, is Goodnight Moon, because on top of her incredible editing and calming voice like none other, she captures the tone of the experience that I've most gravitated towards since I first discovered the phenomenon -- feeling like a motherly figure, possibly even like a friend that's there to comfort you after a long day. Even though it's slightly embarrassing to say, she's the kind of content creator that is so engaging you will find yourself answering her questions and responding to her jokes -- out loud. Most of all, her reassuring demeanor and comments throughout most of her videos have genuinely settled my anxiety after a long, stressful day of overanalyzing myself and regretting past interactions I've had with people.
ASMR is an incredibly important part of coping with my mental health. Sure, there are some really weird channels out there and not every ASMR video is good, but the best ASMR channels are able to let me focus on the calming feeling that surrounds me when I hear a soothing voice and take me back to a more carefree time. They take me back to when I was a child, listening to bedtime stories from my mother before I go to bed. To me, that childlike calm is so important to keep, and ASMR allows me to keep it.