You know that shivery, calm, addictive feeling you get when someone plays with your hair, traces your arm, or gives you a massage? The concept behind ASMR videos is that, mysteriously, you can get a similar feeling remotely, by watching and listening to someone else experiencing it. This phenomenon can be leveraged to soothe trauma-related symptoms. And we may have mirror neurons to thank.
Mirror neurons activate when you witness an experience that someone else is having–allowing you to feel, physically, as if you were having that same experience. These special nerve cells may be partially responsible for our ability to empathize. They may also be part of how ASMR and Reiki videos are able to produce feelings of comfort, virtually.
The concept behind trauma-soothing ASMR videos is simple: if you intently watch someone else in a safe, comforting situation, your brain often starts to feel as if it is in the same safe place. It’s not real human contact, personal attention, or soothing touch, but it’s a better-than-nothing approximation.
The exact mechanism may not be concrete, but the benefits which millions of viewers experience are undeniable. The videos below may help you experience feelings of comfort, relaxation, and connection remotely, in part by activating your mirror neurons. They may be especially helpful for people who have been through trauma and have trouble feeling at ease.
ASMR videos may provide makeshift co-regulation
For those struggling with the lingering physical activation that comes with trauma, co-regulation can be extremely important.
According to ComplexTrauma.org, co-regulation is “the process through which children develop the ability to soothe and manage distressing emotions and sensations from the beginning of life through connection with nurturing and reliable primary caregivers.”
Early-life trauma is often caused in party by a lack of co-regulation with a safe parent. And while co-regulation is so important for healing, trauma unfortunately makes it even harder to achieve. Folks who have been traumatized tend to self-isolate, making co-regulation and soothing touch inaccessible. This makes trauma survivors feel even more broken, causing more self-isolation, continuing the cycle.
The videos below may help you feel a semblance of the safety of connection. With any luck, the makeshift co-regulation you get through ASMR will make it easier to overcome anxiety and pursue real-life co-regulation.
Additionally, ASMR videos can help encourage the body to relax by providing breath regulation, soft nonthreatening eye contact, personal attention, mantras for mental health, distraction from intrusive thoughts, self esteem boosts, and more.
From MassageASMR, this video combines soft, nonthreatening eye contact with positive mantra reminders: Delete negative thoughts. Motivate. Rewrite. Rejuvenate. Uplift. You will also hear the sounds of gentle, soothing touch and slow, calm breaths.
“This is my favourite ASMR video! It’s my go to if I can’t sleep, feel anxious or just want to relax.” – Andi Nick
“Short and sweet. This one is going on my quick fix list.” – Emma Rose
“I have anxiety issues very bad, and I work days and nights and sometimes it gets so bad I just need to take 5 minutes and chill. This video is a perfect one for those 5 minutes!” – No Tomatoes Plz
From ObviouslyASMR, feel soothing tingles thanks to your mirror neurons. This video also uses soft, descriptive whispering to help you feel like there’s someone sitting right next to you, noticing you’re there but not expecting a response. It can be helpful if you’re feeling triggered by shame and isolation.
“This has to be one of my favorite asmr videos of all time because of all the visual triggers. Thank you for this video, it helps me feel comforted while fighting covid.” – Awkwardgenius 99
“I would just like to say that every time I clicked on this to watch, I have fallen asleep whether I was planning on it or not…It’s been very helpful.” – Starseeker Wolf
Annura’s ASMR provides strong relaxation along with strong eye contact. It’s like having a strong, wise presence whispering right in your ear. Self doubt, self harm, stress, anxieties, feeling dumb, unaccomplished, comparing yourself to others, feeling worthless, left behind, feeling ugly, etc.–this video uses fast, successive trigger words to combat your inner critic and “grab your negative energy.”
“‘Do not allow yourself to become comfortable with these thoughts’ had me realize how I’m drowning in 95% of these thoughts for years that it already feels like my norm.” – SejjeS
“I suffer from debilitating anxiety and I’m still learning how to move past some extremely unnecessary anxieties and fears from my past and my friends, and this video is my go to when I have my worst nights. Your very straightforward and uncomplicated attitude is insanely helpful, I can physically feel my spiraling thoughts lift off my consciousness…This video continues to be life changing and helps me to rewire my head into better thinking habits.” – maybe 0rdinary
Ecuador Live’s video allows you to vicariously experience the emotional cleansing ritual known as “limpia.” While the ritual is a chaotic cross between massage, reiki, being rocked to sleep by a soothing mother, and getting gently slapped with traditional herbs, the end effect is one of relaxation.
“I adore holistic practices like this even though I wasn’t raised with them. Glad we have accessibility to all cultures and ways of healing through the internet!” – Nessieobsessed
“I feel so empty for such a long time now and only watching these videos gives me some peace.” – Silem
“I use this video to reduce stress, relax, help a mind crowded with negative thoughts and get in a sleepy, content mood.” – Ovalbugmann
“This video is amazing to help with anxiety, thank you.” – Laura Bowman
Reiki Healing Hope ASMR provides this short and sweet series of mantra reminders, soothing whispers, and motivational truths.
“I really needed this, it brought me back to the present.” – Gitty N
“Honestly I have been feeling very unhappy for a very long time and I just haven’t been able to find any type of comfort since I can’t seem to open up to people due to my anxiety. And I have to say your videos have been so comforting and I ended up crying due to some of the words that I had been dying to hear for a long time.” – No
“I have to say, while watching and listening, every time you mentioned releasing or letting go of past trauma, my heart became heavy and my chest went tight and I got a spike of anxiety, then it faded. I truly believe that was the feeling of letting that trauma go.” – SoreBoy
IlaMos ASMR created this video, which may help people who don’t get the ASMR feeling very easily. The style of this video should make it extra-likely that mirror neurons are activated, producing soothing feelings of touch by proxy. Rain sounds in the background add to the soothing feeling.
“It’s probably due to mirror neurons: these touches just give me yet unmatched goosebumps!” – Quix
“Wow this one is one of my top-10 asmr videos, loved the whispering and the visual triggers.” – Vando Andrade
Stressful moments can get “stuck” in the body, when we don’t process them, causing pain, discomfort, and ultimately trauma. EdiyaASMR talks you through a half-hour of relaxing and listening to your body, as if she were there comforting you in person. This video brings your body back into the present moment, so that trauma doesn’t amplify your pain.
“I have a pounding headache and my right leg has been in some serious pain today, then I suddenly saw this. This has really helped me, the pain has lessened and I feel much more relaxed.” – Eat Chicken
“The way your voice calms me and gives me control over my body and mind without being invalidating is so refreshing and important.” – Goo Gle
“This is so comforting and healing.” – Kelly’s Magical Realm
Silver Hare created this remote ASMR reiki session to help soothe you through negative feelings related to trauma. Reiki can help you enjoy safe, comforting personal attention, which combats the negative or dangerous associations with personal attention that trauma can create.
“Been struggling with traumatic thoughts these past few days. This is divine timing for sure.” – Kaki
“This is exactly what I need right now, been having a tough couple of days dealing with past trauma since I’ve put off dealing with it fully since it happened.” – Beth McKigen
“I’m autistic and been feeling really unsafe, dealing with a lot of fear and anxiety because of trauma, and this helps so much.” – Tai Oliveira
Creator Ephemeral Rift, describes this video’s purpose: “to provide those that suffer not only with ASMR and relaxation, but with a sense and feeling of safety and security.”
“As someone who struggles with PTSD, ASMR has been really helpful in relaxing me and aiding me in falling asleep.” – RobotsHaveSoulx
“I was having a PTSD flashback and my heart felt like it was going so fast it would explode. Both in curiosity and panic I searched ‘PTSD ASMR’ and came across this first. I’m about 5 minutes in and my heart is slowly calming down.” – Nictendo Wii
“I’ve been watching ASMR since my last deployment to help relax and sleep and this is the first one I’ve seen that directly relates to my main issue.” – Charles Alvarez
ASMR to soothe trauma-related symptoms: worth a try
Regardless of the root mechanism, ASMR videos have been shown to reduce markers of stress amongst those who are able to experience the feeling. Some people may achieve it more easily using headphones or watching while listening.
Unfortunately, some people are unable to experience the famed tingly feeling of ASMR. However, the affirmations, mantras, and soothing voices in these videos may provide comfort in their own right.
And if you just want to talk about what you’ve been through or where to go from here? Understanding peers are a minute away.