Science has made it quite clear that drumming has some profound and holistic uses to enhance physical, mental and emotional health, as demonstrated in a series of studies and research papers.
Immune boosting and stress reducing: Drumming has been found to increase immunity whilst reducing stress, a condition which plagues the 9-5 work-centric environment of Western culture. A paper published by researchers at the Meadville Medical Center’s Mind-Body Wellness Center in 2001 notes: “Drum circles have been part of healing rituals in many cultures throughout the world since antiquity.” A total of 111 age and sex matched volunteers (55 men and 56 women) were recruited for the Meadville study. Group drumming was found to result in increased immunity, boosting natural killer cell activity and increasing lymphokine-activated killer cell activity. A reduction in the stress hormone cortisol was also found.
Reduced blood pressure: A 2014 study on the benefits of djembe drumming published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Medicine found that drumming may improve cardiovascular health due to the physical nature of playing the instrument, without posing the risk to unhealthy or older populations that may be experienced with more intense forms of exercise. The same study also determined significant decreases in stress and anxiety in both middle-aged and younger drummers.
Reduced pain: A 2012 study published in Evolutionary Psychology, conducted by the University of Oxford’s Department of Experimental Psychology, details how the act of performing of music — as opposed to passively listening — elevates the pain threshold and is connected with endorphin release. The researchers concluded that it was the “active performance of music that generates the endorphin high, not the music itself.”
Transcendental experiences: A 2014 study conducted by the Department of Cognitive Biology at the University of Austria in Vienna states: “Exposure to repetitive drumming combined with instructions for shamanic journeying has been associated with physiological and therapeutic effects.” As well as “a significant decrease” in levels of the stress hormone cortisol, volunteers who were exposed to repetitive drumming combined with shamanic instructions reported experiencing “heaviness, decreased heart rate and dreamlike experiences.”
Increases white matter within brain: A 2014 study on the therapeutic benefits of drumming and rhythm exercises for patients with Huntington’s disease, found that after two months of instruction “improvements in executive function and changes in white matter microstructure” were observed.
Improves socio-emotional disorders: A 2001 study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine hones in on how group drumming can impact low-income youth whose social and emotional problems are linked to chronic stress. The authors note that, “Drumming is a non-verbal, universal activity that builds upon a collectivistic aspect of diverse cultures and does not bear the stigma of therapy.” Following 12 weeks of school counselor-led drumming, vast improvements were observed in disorders such as anxiety and PTSD. The authors concluded that the findings “underscore the potential value of the arts as a therapeutic tool.”
by Luke Sumpter Flickr