Why Group drumming? A little bit of science

Drumming and percussion has been at the heart of human community for thousands of years. The collective exploration of rhythm and movement has always drawn people together, from the tribal dance to the arena concert.

2016-04-29 13.52.34-2Rhythm surrounds us in life, from the moment of our conception when we are connected to the heartbeat of our mother. Yet today, as we rush around on auto-pilot so many of those sounds simply pass us by. The act of drumming grounds us once again in the moment, and when with others it establishes community, re-connecting us with the very heart of our humanity.

Scientific research is beginning to recognise the therapeutic and healing value of drum work (as well as other sound/vibrational based interventions).

Recent work by the Royal College of Music (2016) has shown “making music can be a powerful tool for promoting mental health and contributes to a wider evidence base around music and wellbeing” to quote Aaron Williamon, professor of Performance Science at RCM. Their research into drumming specifically found that a 10-week programme of group drumming reduced depression by 38 per cent and anxiety by 20 per cent; further they found that the same programme can also improve social resilience by 23 per cent and mental wellbeing by 16 per cent.

The RCM research cites the linkage between mental health conditions, including depression, and inflammation in the immune system. The subtle vibrational of drumming has been shown to be an effective treatment because it helps to release and decrease such inflammation.

New York based psychotherapist Robert Lawrence Friedman was one of the first formal researchers into the relationship between wellness and drumming, establishing a link between drumming and the individuals T cell count. “When people drum, something happens to their brain that only happens when people are drumming together or when people are in deep meditation,” he explained. “The brain usually operates with either the left or right side independently. People generally cycle in 20 minutes per side. But when drumming, we experience something called hemispheric synchronization, where both sides work at the same time…. people feel two opposite emotions simultaneously: energized and relaxed.”

This finding was supported in 2001 publication by Dr. Barry B. Bittman. This study showed that there was a significant boost in the activity of “cellular immune components responsible for seeking out and destroying cancer cells and viruses were noted in normal subjects who drummed.”

In short, drumming can increase the presence of T-cells, the white blood cell that fights viruses.

The direct emotional impact of drumming are well documented, quite simply, it makes you happy. Drumming is known to release endorphins, which are associated with general feelings of well-being and euphoria, as well as the natural pain-relief effect of endorphins and endogenous opiates. It induces deep relaxation; in one US cited study, blood samples from participants who participated in an hour-long drumming session revealed a reversal in stress hormones; in my own experience those I have spent time with have often reported improved and less disturbed sleep patterns following drum work.

Drumming also produces a strong sense of community and connectedness. Drumming circles and group drumming classes provide an opportunity for “synchronicity” in that you connect with your own self at a deeper level while also connecting with other like-minded people.

As a mindfulness practitioner I never question the drum as a means of grounding people in the present moment – its rhythm becoming the meditation object – one allows oneself to drop into the flow of the rhythm you cease to be caught up in issues past or the concerns of the future.

Want to find out more, or see how you might incorporate this benefit into your work contact: graeme@themindfulhorse.org / 07981 440977

(c) the mindful horse / (c) rhythms in mind