Group drumming is one of the oldest forms of healing that dates back to the Stone Age. Known more widely as a Shamanic drumming circle, its focus is to gather the community together including people of all ages, with its main objective: to establish a connection with creation by means of a collective consciousness that emerges through the rhythm of the drum. Through each unique beat, the participants first get in tune with themselves and then with each other to form a rhythm that creates a collective voice.
While we are seeing a reemergence of drumming circles for healing, spiritual growth and shamanic journeying, not long ago was shamanism virtually wiped out upon the rise and spread of Christianity.
Today, growing numbers of mental health organizations are developing community music-making interventions for those seeking natural healing, and while up until this point there had been no real evidence of the effectiveness, in a study released March 14, 2016, researchers in the UK recruited 30 participants who were diagnosed by mental health services and (who had not yet received any kind of anti-depressant medication), in a 10 week program to study its adverse effects.
The participants were separated into two groups, one being a control group which were informed that they would be participating in a music and mental health study, but were not given access to the drums and instead were enrolled in social activities (quiz nights, book clubs and women’s institute meetings). While the treatment group received weekly 90 minute sessions of hands-on authentic drumming with a traditional African djembe drum.
The results of the study were sensational and reported as below:
“Significant improvements were found in the drumming group but not the control group: by week 6 there were decreases in depression (-2.14 SE 0.50 CI -3.16 to -1.11) and increases in social resilience (7.69 SE 2.00 CI 3.60 to 11.78), and by week 10 these had further improved (depression: -3.41 SE 0.62 CI -4.68 to -2.15; social resilience: 10.59 SE 1.78 CI 6.94 to 14.24) alongside significant improvements in anxiety (-2.21 SE 0.50 CI -3.24 to -1.19) and mental wellbeing (6.14 SE 0.92 CI 4.25 to 8.04). All significant changes were maintained at 3 months follow-up. Furthermore, it is now recognized that many mental health conditions are characterized by underlying inflammatory immune responses. Consequently, participants in the drumming group also provided saliva samples to test for cortisol and the cytokines interleukin (IL) 4, IL6, IL17, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα), and monocyte chemoattractant protein (MCP) 1. Across the 10 weeks there was a shift away from a pro-inflammatory towards an anti-inflammatory immune profile. Consequently, this study demonstrates the psychological benefits of group drumming and also suggests underlying biological effects, supporting its therapeutic potential for mental health.”
To summarize, by week 6, participants in the treatment group experienced a significant decrease in depression and increased social resilience with further improvement in mental health and well-being by week 10. Improvements continued and were maintained upon a 3 month follow-up. The drumming group also reported a major shift from pro-inflammatory to an anti-inflammatory immune profile.