11 Holiday ASMR Sounds That Are Surprisingly Soothing, from Baking to Champagne Popping

published Dec 4, 2023
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Someone using a hand mixer to mix cheesecake batter
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Nothing stops you in the middle of a mindless TikTok scroll like ASMR videos. They can be stories told in ultra-soothing whispers or videos of slime getting stretched and squelched to (some) viewers’ absolute, brain-tingling pleasure. But what exactly draws you to these rich, auditory delights — and can you use ASMR to help you relax during a busy holiday season?

ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, is “a response to certain stimuli such as hearing a whisper, [feeling a] light touch, or imagining a spa experience,” says Dr. Zoe Martinez, M.D., Ph.D., a neuroscientist and psychiatrist based in Mountain View, California. That response “is often described as ‘tingles’ going up and down the back of the head and spine,” Dr. Martinez says. “It can result in a feeling of relaxation or excitement in susceptible individuals,” she adds. Once you feel it, you know exactly what it is.

But some people are more affected than others. According to a study published in February 2022 in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One, “ASMR-experiencers are particularly prone to experiencing negative emotional states as well as anxiety disorders,” and ASMR videos may lower anxiety levels among those who experience ASMR.

“Individuals who are sensitive to stimuli that can cause ASMR may experience a feeling of being more relaxed in response to those stimuli,” Dr. Martinez says, adding it may temporarily reduce stress. 

If you’re trying to discover if ASMR works for you, the key is finding the right trigger, also known as the sound that elicits a physical response in one’s body. Whispers and calm voices are the most reliable ASMR triggers, according to Craig Richard, Ph.D., ASMR University founder, and an author of the September 2018 ASMR brain scan study

To use the season to your advantage, go for festive ASMR sounds that can “evoke emotional responses that can help people feel more relaxed and grounded during a potentially stressful time of year,” says LeMeita Smith, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, director of clinical services at United Health Services.

Are you eager to see what triggers might help you find your zen? Here are 11 holiday ASMR ideas to start testing out.

1. Boots Crunching in Snow

As you listen to each footstep pack down the soft, fluffy snow, you can practically feel the cold (in a good way). 

2. Crackling Fire

Is there anything more hygge than the crackle of a fire on a blustery day? I don’t think so. “The gentle crackling of a fireplace can evoke feelings of warmth and comfort, reminiscent of cozy, peaceful evenings spent indoors,” Smith says. 

3. Gift Wrapping

Scissors slicing through paper, tape ripping off the jagged edge of a dispenser, and that distinctive rustle of paper folding over boxes — these sounds bring you right back to the childhood excitement of anticipating gifts. 

4. Tinkling Icicles 

This is a feast for the eyes and the ears; it’s almost like nature’s lullaby.

5. Jingling Sleigh Bells

Timeless and beautiful, the sound of sleigh bells brings to mind sleigh rides and horses, evergreen garlands, and twinkling lights. 

6. Galloping Clydesdale Horses

What a treat to see these beautiful horses plodding along in perfect unison. And an even bigger treat to hear it. 

7. Howling Winter Wind 

That cold winter wind whooshing is peaceful when you don’t have to stand outside in it. 

8. A Whispered Christmas Story

Sit back and relax, like really relax, as you listen to The Night Before Christmas

9. Baking a Cake

Nothing beats the gustatory pleasure of holiday baking. Let the sounds of a masterpiece in the works get you into holiday zen mode. 

10. Ice Skating

This is a must-listen. Ice skating without music never, ever sounded so good. 

11. Champagne Cork Popping

The pop and fizz of pulling out a Champagne cork has to be the most festive and celebratory sound. It’s a merry-maker for sure.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy as part of Holiday Night Off, presented by DoorDash. See it there: 11 Holiday ASMR Sounds That’ll Instantly Soothe You