By Alison Bell
Some people de-stress through exercise. Some through meditation. Others find ample doses of chocolate works best. But one surprisingly effective method you might not have tried is hand drumming.
Playing a hand drum, such as a bongo or conga drum, has been proven to fight anxiety and depression, according to Anthony Adame, Hillsides intern program manager, who has been playing the conga drum for more than 20 years. “Drumming is a mindfulness activity,” he says. “When you drum, everything else is put on hold as you focus on the here and now. It puts your mind in an alpha state, which is consistent with a feeling of deep relaxation.” The activity also releases endorphins, feel-good chemicals associated with runner’s high.
Drumming is so beneficial for mental health, that one renowned music therapist, Christine Stevens, calls it “Vitamin D.”
At Hillsides newly opened Family Resource Center in South Pasadena, located at 149 Pasadena Avenue, Adame has collected 22 colorful drums of different shapes and sizes, along with other percussion instruments, such as a maracas, cowbells, and a cabasa. He leads Hillsides staff in drum circles to build teamwork and help employees relax and have fun. He and other therapists hope to eventually offer drumming to clients and the entire community.
Another reason Adame is sold on drumming is because it uses both hands, which activates the right and left hemisphere of the brain. The two brain hemispheres often emanate different wave frequencies, he explains. Drumming, like deep mediation, brings them into synchronization.
“This creates what is known as bilateral stimulation, which has a strong therapeutic value,” says Adame. One use is to can use bilateral stimulation to “lock in” a calming thought or visualization. For example, let’s say you conjure up an image of a peaceful beach scene to calm and center yourself. Drumming as you visualize imprints the image on your brain and helps you access the image quickly and more fully.
You can even experience the benefits of bilateral stimulation on visualization without a drum, says Adame. All you have to do is drum or tap fingers from both hands on your shoulders or thigh while concentrating on a peaceful image or thought.
So the next time anyone asks if you’ve had your Vitamin D, don’t think sunlight or vitamin supplements. Think drumming… and go out and get your dose today.
Alison Bell serves as the communications and development associate in Hillsides advancement services and is an author and writing instructor.