Science shows “brain orgasms” lower stress just as well as meditation does


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There are plenty of creative ways to reduce stress: You can inhale soothing essential oils, watch a scary movietry making pottery, or even have sex (the resulting surge of oxytocin combats cortisol, the stress hormone). But it turns out that another kind of physical pleasure, “brain orgasms”—which, BTW, are much easier to induce than actual orgasms—are also great at alleviating stress. So much so, in fact, that they’ve been found to be just as effective as meditation, the OG all-star tension reliever.

Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a pleasant sensation people feel after hearing certain sounds. It’s blowing up on YouTube for its ability to give listeners delightful brain tingles. In fact, more than 13 million videos and entire channels are dedicated to making people feel ASMR: Creators do everything from whispering, tapping, crinkling, and scratching to producing relaxing sounds from everyday activities. And though the tingles start in your brain, they quickly move through your entire body—something new research found positively affects your health in more ways than one.

In the first of a two-part study published in the journal PLOS One, more than 1,000 participants watched ASMR videos and control videos (AKA non-ASMR) online and then, after each video, the people in both groups rated how frequently they experienced ASMR and described their experience. After analyzing participants’ self-reported responses, researchers found that those who experienced ASMR frequently (regardless of which video they watched) had increased levels of excitement and calmness and decreased levels of stress and sadness, according to Medical News Today.

“The average reductions in heart rate experienced by our ASMR participants was comparable to other research findings on the physiological effects of stress reduction techniques, such as music and mindfulness.” —lead study author Dr. Giulia Poerio

In the second part of the study, 110 participants watched videos and rated the frequency of ASMR while researchers used a device to record their physiological responses. The results showed that those who experienced ASMR while watching the videos had heart rates an average of 3.14 beats per minute lower than those who didn’t feel the brain tingles.

“Our studies show that ASMR videos do indeed have the relaxing effect anecdotally reported by experiencers—but only in people who experience the feeling,” says lead study author Giulia Poerio, PhD. “What’s interesting is that the average reductions in heart rate experienced by our ASMR participants was comparable to other research findings on the physiological effects of stress reduction techniques, such as music and mindfulness.”

Sure, scheduling a meditation sesh is a fantastic way to chill and unwind. But consider trying an ASMR video next time you need to take a mental load off. The resulting brain orgasm may do wonders for calming you down, and it only takes a few minutes—not to mention that you can do it even while seated at your office desk.

Check out the below ASMR video to get you started on your journey to a brain orgasm.

Want more stress-relief advice? Here are two practices Well+Good readers swear by. Or, feel your stress melt away by using this Japanese practice.

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