There was this game I used to play when I was in elementary school. It was often played during recess, or at the slumber parties, but I only recall it for a brief time.
The game would start with having to sit down and close my eyes. One of my classmates would very gently hold the underside of my arm while lightly tracing a large “cut” mark from wrist to elbow using their finger. They would whisper that they’re “opening the wound” while proceeding to pretend to pull the imaginary wound apart. Then they would begin to fill it with different materials, starting off with lighter things like feathers, and making their way to heavier items like rocks or dirt. When they would finish with stitching the imaginative wound up, it would feel like my arm became physically heavier, if only for a second.
I specifically remember this game because I’ve never forgotten the feeling it gave me while I was having it done. During the game, my head would gain a feeling of slight pressure, and a tingling would make its way down my spine.
I learned only a few years ago that the feelings this game gave me were my very first experiences with ASMR.
For those who’ve never heard the term, ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response. It’s a term discovered a little over a decade ago to describe the “tingles” some people get from hearing soft, mundane sounds or feeling gentle touches.
With a box full of “toys” such as bubble wrap, slime, corks and everything in between to bring a client’s ASMR fantasies to life, Louise Dunne, owner and sole worker of ONE Heath and Wellness spa located in Orleans, is bringing a new and unique service to the city.
“I was studying to be a medical esthetician and as I was delivering my services I realized that the biggest part of the interaction was the personal interaction,” said Dunne. “That was more important to the client at the end of the day, the human aspect.”
Everyone who is able to experience it does not have the same reaction, but a common experience is the feeling of static sensations starting from the scalp down to the bottom of the spine, leaving a trail of tingles on the skin.
Dunne offers an ASMR addition to any of her spa services but has made a specific ASMR facial and massage, since they blend so well together.
Countless videos can be found on Youtube — some with millions of views — on different techniques used to get people to “tingle”. Many videos can be found offering a roleplayed “spa” service. Since many aspects of going to the spa already have strong ASMR undertones, it naturally fits.
Although the term hasn’t been around for too long, it has become an internet trend throughout the past few years. Since September of this year, Dunne is the first in Ottawa to create a real-world service for those who experience or desire ASMR.
It’s still unknown territory as to why people experience these tingles, but it seems that everyone has different triggers for it.
“I ask them what their preferences are and if they ever had any,” said Dunne. “If they haven’t experienced it before we explore some of the triggers that they might have found in their life that they’ve experienced to make them more relaxed.”
This makes the whole service very personalized and unique to the client. One person may like whispering, while other may only like sounds made from objects.
Amy Evens, an Algonquin business student, has been familiar to ASMR induced tingles almost her whole life.
“I first discovered [ASMR] in grade one without knowing what it was when they would come to do lice checks in my class,” said Evans. “I realized it was something much more common after I graduated high school in 2011 and found it on Youtube.”
While watching her favourite kind of videos — mainly personal attention videos such as hair styling or medical appointment — she experiences a tingly feeling in the base of her skull and sometimes on the top of her head.
Evans finds ASMR to be a very relieving experience but emphasized that while some may enjoy them, she personally hates the eating videos.
Although she doesn’t think she’d visit a spa offering ASMR as a service due to the privacy and vulnerability surrounding it, Evans does believe it is great for those who benefit from the stress-relieving properties of it.
Those who don’t have ASMR are still able to take advantage of some aspects of it. Chelsea Nolan, an Algonquin developmental studies student, is still able to gain some of the helpful properties within in the videos. Although she doesn’t get tingles when watching the videos, she still uses them as a way to relax, help her sleep and deal with anxiety.
“When I get really panicky or I’m doing homework and just need to chill, I’ll put on ASMR videos,” Nolan said. “It’s just more of ‘this is so relaxing’, but I have particular sounds that I look for like the honeycomb eating ones since I like the sticky sounds.”
Nolan believes that the idea of One Health and Wellness offering ASMR services is ingenious. Since she thinks spas are already relaxing, adding ASMR to the equation would only make it more so, as well as such a new and fascinating experience.