As a student I fell in love with the subject of psychology probably for the same reasons that most students do – it gave me a chance to peek into the mysteries of the mind and explore ‘the dark side’ of human behavior. However, one semester of positive psychology changed most of that. I am still the student who fell in love with the possibility of learning all that can go wrong with humans, but slowly, I realized that psychology can also help us understand what can go right with humans and how to improve our lives for the better.

Positive psychology is the pioneering branch of psychology that challenges the classical ‘illness model’ of mental health and chooses to focus on the ‘wellness model’. It is gaining acceptance as people are realizing one very important fact – an absence of mental illness does not always equal mental health. There are several aspects of the personality that need to be nurtured to live a truly fulfilling life.

As a drum circle facilitator, I realized that drumming therapy can contribute a lot to the field of psychology.  Aspects like resilience, mindfulness and entrainment, all are important concepts in positive psychology and drumming can bring these aspects out in an individual and strengthen them. Each one of us has an inherent sense of rhythm, which when brought out in a safe and non-judgmental setting like a drum circle can greatly accelerate the process of catharsis and help us be more present in the moment. Drumming also releases endorphins and the well-known ‘happy hormone’ serotonin that can combat stress.

Unlike learning music professionally or learning to perform, drumming in the context of drum circles is solely for the purpose of self-expression. There is no right and wrong in a drum circle and it is a space free of judgment and expectations. In addition to this, the anxiety of doing something new and unknown gets diffused because everyone sitting around you is a novice too! In my first drum circle, I recognized the importance of being a part of something bigger than myself. The simple act of drumming for a few minutes surrounded by people who were as happy as I was, brought about a light bulb moment. For those few minutes all the background noise in my brain stopped. Nothing mattered more than the rhythm I was playing, the giant grin on my face and the feeling of connectedness I felt with the equally joyful strangers sitting next to me.

In the Indian context, we are not strangers to the happiness that comes from community drumming. We all instinctively know that getting together in a group and making music is very enjoyable and stress relieving. Positive psychology along with the conventional wisdom of group drumming can enhance this process so that stress can be relieved in the short term and long term.

Drum Circle

Today, the need of the hour is to pursue a change in the way we approach our minds. Just like the body needs some exercise, building our ‘mind muscles’ through drumming in groups can greatly benefit us. The only evidence I needed for this was the smile on my face and feeling of immense contentment as I walked out of my first drum circle.

  • Buneshte Hakhamaneshy