For all 600,000 of GentleWhispering's devoted YouTube subscribers, the evening is made better when Maria — the soft-speaking star of the channel and unofficial queen of the community known as ASMR — uploads a new video. Whether she's tapping a wooden hairbrush, flipping pages of a book, stroking fuzzy phone cases, making paper airplanes, or brushing the camera with a feather, her actions leave viewers feeling spellbound. I, personally, am one of those 600,000 loyal fans and can attest to the magic of autonomous sensory meridian response.
Perhaps the most famous and seemingly enigmatic trigger of ASMR is the tingly feeling that travels down the body. It's true: certain movements, such as the hairbrush-tapping, make my spine prickle like someone's scratching my scalp in real life. And while I certainly cherish the sensation, the greatest benefit of Maria's channel is something that goes far beyond the tingles. During her clips, I fall into a deep, emotionally soothing sleep, and I wake the next morning with a clear head, ready to take on the coming day. That said, I spoke with the meditative guru about all things wellness — namely, how to attain a state of total relaxation so you can get the best night of zzz's in your life. See her tips below!
1. Turn off social media.
Maria's number one tip for unwinding? Log out of social media apps well before bed, because the Facebook and Instagram rabbit holes never really end.
"Nowadays, it's very hard to fall asleep when you have things open like Twitter, with their constant nonstop notifications," she says. "So at any point, there will be something for you to look at. And that creates a confusing situation for your brain, because it's very intoxicating, and it sucks you in. And you notice that you spend an hour on Facebook instead of trying to fall asleep during that time."
And though ASMR is on YouTube (technically considered social media), Maria says if you focus on the video itself rather than, say, scrolling through the comments, you'll power down with ease.
"You don't have to follow the concept of the video at all," she says. "You just turn it on, and this way it blocks your application. You just put it next to you, and you listen to everything that's happening. Our videos are long enough that if you put it on in the background, you will have enough to fall asleep."
2. Write down your worries throughout the day.
At a certain hour every single day, Maria thoroughly analyses all her fears and concerns, so she doesn't have to think about them again until tomorrow.
"I always suggest writing down your worries and trying to analyse why it's worrying you and what's the possible outcome," she says. "Do it during the day so at night you don't have to worry about it, because you already dealt with it earlier. Most of the time, I try to [spin] every situation into a positive perspective so that I don't drown myself in doubt and don't worry myself out too much."
Maria considers herself to be a chronic worrier, so in setting aside a specific time frame to mull over her points of frustration or stress, she's essentially organising her anxiety.
3. Schedule your downtime in advance.
"You need to schedule downtime," Maria says. "So if you need to go to sleep in an hour, you should lower your activity levels to the minimum [in the meantime]. Set up the boundaries for your bedtime."
She recommends sticking to a regular nightly schedule — this way, your body will come to understand when it's time to go to sleep and won't put up a fight.
4. Engage in relaxing activities by yourself or with a partner.
Something as simple as colouring or listening to a calming audiobook can decrease tension and prepare you for sound shut-eye.
"Take a hot bath," Maria says. "Give yourself a massage — rub your feet, rub your arms. If you have a partner to help you with that, that's perfect as well. You can even massage each other to help you both fall asleep, because it's extremely relaxing." In fact, Maria says her longtime boyfriend regularly brushes her hair to take the edge off a tough day.
"We both know what triggers us, and we learned each other's favourite things," she says. "We can give those things through the touch and through expression. Our bond becomes that much deeper because we try to please each other, and not just on a sexual level, but on a deeper, more intimate bonding level."
5. Practice mindfulness meditation.
Immersing yourself in the world around you is a surefire way to instil a feeling of tranquillity. In the evenings, Maria plays peaceful music and practices awareness of her surroundings.
"What I like to do is sit down and start analysing everything around me," she says. "I listen to sounds, and I try to understand where they came from and how beautiful they are and how they travelled here. So it's awareness of what life is, and by analysing the little things that surround you, such as the chair you're sitting in — it has been crafted by a person, and it has been designed and delivered to you by other people — you start feeling the love and passion for the world around you. And by doing this, you ground yourself in your surroundings. You're present in the world as much as everything else is present in the world."