Cultures like the Ashanti of West Africa and the many indigenous tribes of North and South America recognize the drum as an instrument of spiritual healing. Drums provide safe passage for our trapped suffering, allowing us to communicate feelings, fears, doubts, and desires that cannot be captured by mere words.
Healing isolation and loneliness
Stress and sadness often cause us to feel cut off from our loved ones. We don’t want to cause them anxiety, and so we keep our own anxieties to ourselves, which serves only to heighten the sense of isolation.
When you participate in a drum circle, however, you are entering into a nonjudgmental community. You are blessed with a spirit of camaraderie. That benefit alone has been shown to reduce stress while increasing self-confidence.
Healing anxiety, stress, and depression
Research conducted by psychotherapist Robert Lawrence Friedman and other experts in the field has shown that drumming reduces anxiety, stress, and depression. According to Friedman, drumming has an effect similar to meditation.
Normally, the brain cycles back and forth between the analytical left hemisphere and the creative right hemisphere. While drumming, however, the hemispheres become synchronized, working together simultaneously, which results in a transcendent state of consciousness(1).
Reliving traumatic memories results in rage, frustration, and a sense of helplessness. We call this Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, and it afflicts many returning soldiers. Psychologist Moshe Bensimon has published evidence that drumming has the power to reduce the effects of PTSD.
In one study, Bensimon found that soldiers suffering with PTSD displayed an “increased sense of openness, togetherness, belonging, sharing, closeness, connectedness and intimacy, as well as achieving a non-intimidating access to traumatic memories, facilitating an outlet for rage and regaining a sense of self-control.(2)”
Healing the body
Indigenous people seek healing from shamans when they are ill, believing that many diseases spiritual causes. These practitioners employ the use of drums to bring healing energies to their patients. Though we have made many advances in medical sciences, it seems that some of our earliest treatments still apply.
A 2001 study of the effects of drumming on health showed that group-drumming music therapy has the potential to actually alter neuroendocrine and immunological patterns, creating hope for healing for sufferers with chronic illnesses. Researchers have found that many cancer patients who play drums for thirty minutes each day had stronger immune systems and increased levels of cancer-fighting cells.(3)
(1)”Not Just for Music: Drumming Is Therapy, Too – The Daily …” 2014. 22 Jul. 2015 <http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/07/21/drums-aren-t-just-for-music-they-re-therapy-too.html>
(2)Bensimon, M. “Drumming through trauma: Music therapy with post …” 2008. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0197455607000883>
(3)”composite effects of group drumming music therapy on …” 2012. 22 Jul. 2015 <http://drumsofhumanity.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Immune-System-Study.pdf>