Drumming and Endorphins

28th Oct 2014

Endorphins are one of nature’s little gifts to us. They help us endure pain and stress and can be released in a variety of ways. Technically, endorphins are a chemical released by the brain that results in happier, more joyful emotions. Those positive emotions help us endure less than positive situations, as well as helping us bond with others. And, since endorphins are completely natural, they don’t lead to the harmful effects of artificial endorphin-like drugs such as codeine and morphine.

Studies have shown that meditation, exercise, and certain foods can trigger the body’s release of endorphins. And, now, a more fun trigger has also been studied: drumming!

The findings of a University of Oxford study show that participatory music, such as drumming, triggers the release of endorphins, increasing the pain threshold. Interestingly, a group of drummers playing together released even more endorphins, which contributes to the bonding experience. Drummers who played in a “stop-and-start nature” during rehearsals were not able to increase their release of endorphins like the musicians who played continuously for thirty minutes.

The scientists compared this to endorphins released when simply listening to music and found that those effects were not the same, either. From this formed the conclusion that active, “flow state” participation in the music leads to an endorphin increase, not simply the music itself.

Such information is probably music to any drummer’s ears. Now, in addition to feeling how playing affects them, they can actually point out scientific evidence that drumming is a healthy habit and that drumming in groups such as drum circles is healthier still. For centuries, people have explained and experienced the healing effects of drumming and group music activities.

As far as spiritual drumming sessions are concerned, it seems that these studies show how drumming is not only healing for those who listen and dance, but it is increasingly healing for the drummers, themselves. The more they play and the more they become synced to one another, the more endorphins are released in their bodies.

This, at the very least, means they can drum longer since it will take longer for their arms to give out.

Higher endorphin releases are not only good news for drummers, but for our societies, as well. Higher endorphin releases and, subsequently, more bonding, also help to increase cooperation. Perhaps this means that world peace can be accomplished through drum circles. Or maybe drummers should play at every peace talk to help facilitate a spirit of cooperation.

Has anyone ever imagined the endorphin release of drumming being used in such a beautiful way?