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7 Ways Taking Up The Drums Will Improve Your Life

7 Ways Taking Up The Drums Will Improve Your Life

Percussion is an exciting and health boosting activity which is noted by the scientific community for its ability to alleviate modern day stresses. Renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks states in Musicophilia all humans, “can perceive music, perceive tones, timbre, pitch, intervals, melodic contours, harmony, and (perhaps most elementally) rhythm. We integrate all of these and ‘construct’ music in our minds using many different parts of the brain. And to this largely unconscious structural appreciation of music is added an often intense and profound emotional reaction.”

Drumming promotes a rhythm intrinsically acquired from ancient humans. Whilst it’s a primal activity, the health benefits are now understood to be highly beneficial. This is how to tap into the physical and psychology highs of the drumming world.

Drummers

    1. It’s fun!

    Playing the drums is great fun. No matter your ability level, it’s a highly enjoyable way of awakening primitive rhythms. As neurologist Dr Barry Bittman (CEO of the Yamaha and Wellness Institute in Pensylvania) has stated, “Drums are accessible and don’t present the challenge of a learning curve – anyone regardless of handicap can sit and beat out a rhythm on a drum.”

    Drumming can be a tremendous social experience, enhancing the fun factor. Dr. Bittman has championed group music therapy in a paper titled Composite Effects of Group Drumming Music TherapyIn this he claims, “Response to rhythm is basic to human functioning, making these percussion activities and techniques highly motivating to people of all ages and backgrounds.”

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    2. A boost for the immune system.

    A study led by Dr. Bittman suggests drumming is good for the immune system. He acknowledges“Group drumming tunes our biology, orchestrates our immunity, and enables healing to begin.” His research has demonstrated how a group drumming session (which he has dubbed a HealthRhythm) can create illness-killing cells, which could protect the body.

    The research is cited extensively in the drumming community, such as with specialists Remo: “Remo’s Health Rhythms Department is on the forefront of establishing a solid foundation for proving the biological benefits of drumming. Neurologist Barry Bittman, M.D. and his renowned research team discovered that a specific group drumming approach (HealthRHYTHMS protocol) significantly increased the disease fighting activity of circulating white blood cells (Natural Killer cells) that seek out and destroy cancer cells and virally-infected cells.”

    3. Intellectual development. 

    It’s suggested drumming can lead to greater cognitive functioning. This is especially important with younger generations. Stanford University researched the effects of 20 minutes of rhythmic music with middle-school boys struggling with Attention Deficit Disorder. The results led to a boost in IQ scores and improved concentration. Howard Russell, a clinical psychologist involved in the study, said, “For most of us, the brain is locked into a particular level of functioning. If we ultimately speed up or slow down the brainwave activity, then it becomes much easier for the brain to shift its speed as needed.”

    Although further research is needed for conclusive evidence, studies to date are encouraging for musical therapy.

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    4. Social and creative development.

    Drumming can be enjoyed by everyone and unites all cultures and ages across the world. Drummers can join bands, meet new people, and contribute to songs, whilst through group therapy sessions people can forge lifelong friendships. It’s a global language everyone could, and should, be a part of.

    5. Fitness.

    Drumming makes for a fun way to exercise. The fitter you are the easier it is to play for longer periods of time, which provides an incentive to be healthy.

    It’s well noted in the drumming community, with former drummer for The Clash, Nick Headon, pointing out, “Its a physical activity, it stimulates parts of the brain keeping the four limbs doing something different, and it is primeval as well – drums were the first instrument: before music, people were banging things together.”

    6. Pain relief. 

    Research from group drumming sessions suggests it is a sufficient distraction to alleviate pain, even if it’s chronic. The activity promotes endorphin production and endogenous opiates – these are the human body’s natural painkillers. It can also distract attention away from grief.

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    7. Combat stress, depression, and neurological conditions.

    Dr. Barry Bittman’s research indicates drumming relaxes people, which helps lower blood pressure and reduces stress. The latter is a contemporary issue which contributes to many health problems, such as heart attacks and strokes. Modern life demands time for proper relaxation, and drumming offers a stress free activity where people can let themselves go.

    Even more encouraging are the results suggesting drumming can alleviate serious neurological conditions. Neurologist Oliver Sacks, in his book Musicophilia, has noted the ability of natural rhythms to assist people with their troubles: “While music can affect all of us – calm us, animate us, comfort us, thrill us, or serve to organize and synchronize us at work or play – it may be especially powerful and have great therapeutic potential for patients with a variety of neurological conditions.” Research is ongoing, but in the coming years we can hope for encouraging news.

    Types of Drums

    Drum kit

      If you’re interested in taking up percussion, there are numerous options available. Whilst a drum kit is arguably the most famous form, there are accessible alternatives: congas, tambourines, wood blocks, xylophones, tablas, and tom-toms. These can be picked up at a cheap price.

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      To keep expenditures to a minimum, household objects (such as pots, pans, and plastic containers) can be assembled to create a makeshift kit. This is a popular technique for many street drummers across the world. Elsewhere, you could attend group music/therapy sessions in your community – an ideal way to meet new people and get started.

      Drum kits can be expensive and won’t be ideal for everyone, although second hand kits can be well priced and are perfect for beginners. If you live in a flat and don’t want to annoy your neighbors, you could consider electronic kits. They’re ideal for silent playing, but vary in affordability.

      Useful Drumming Tutorials

      For anyone eager to get onto a kit, do note few people have the natural ability to play brilliantly instantaneously. Don’t be put off by this – it takes time to develop the required skills. There are simple rudiments you can learn to get started, which you can find on free tutorial sites such as Drum LessonsFree Drum Lessons, or Drum Channel (which offers a free trial).

      YouTube has thousands of free guides for budding drummers; there are channels dedicated to techniques and tips (such as Drum Channel or Drumeo). YouTube is also a source of historical footage of legendary drummers in action – watching them play is vital for tips. Notable drummers for inspiration include: Ginger Baker, Reni, Jaki Liebezeit, Levon Helm, Art Blakey, Joe Morello, John Bonham, Buddy Rich, and Gene Krupa.

      Even at the most fundamental level you can purchase some drum sticks and practice on a cushion at home. From here you can enjoy the full benefits of a wonderfully productive, ancient activity.

      Featured photo credit: House on the Rock/Joseph Kranak via flickr.com

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      Last Updated on December 9, 2019

      5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

      5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

      Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

      Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

      Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

      1. Get Rationally Optimistic

      Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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      This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

      In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

      The result: no more mental stress.

      2. Unplug

      Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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      How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

      It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

      Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

      3. Easy on the Caffeine

      Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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      Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

      4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

      That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

      How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

      • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
      • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
      • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

      While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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      5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

      This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

      The result: mental stress will be gone!

      So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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