Tiffany McBride, LCPC
Building Community Through Rhythm
Effects on Social Supports
Social supports are a very vital part of our lives. According to studies, people with many social contacts live longer and have better health. (Karren, Smith, Gordon, & Frandsen, 2014) Social supports can include family, friends, colleagues, spiritual or church organizations, neighbors, school mates, etc. However, what about the people who struggle to have social supports and remain isolated? According to Karen et al. (2014), “People who are socially isolated and feel lonely have poorer health and die earlier”. (p 232)
According to Dr. Pelletier, (Karren at el., 2014) “A sense of belonging and connection to other people appears to be a basic human need – as basic as food and shelter. In fact, social support may be one of the critical elements distinguishing those who remain healthy from those who become ill.” (p. 233) There is a strong suggestion that social support and health are related to psychological and physical health. Those who have positive social supports have fewer issues with loneliness, stress, anxiety, and depression. Social supports tend to increase psychological health because it gives an overall feeling of positivity, a sense of confidence, stability, control of one’s surroundings, and overall well-being. (Karren at el., 2014)
Social supports also help with recovery from illness and wounds to the body. Social supports may even influence others to change their unhealthy behaviors and lead to healthier lifestyles. There is a collection of evidence that supports that social supports protect people in crisis, protect them from mental and physical diseases, and helps with longer life. (Karren at el., 2014)
According to Karren at el., (2014) there are four general types of support that people need to provide the substance for intimacy and attachment:
Emotionally – providing empathy, compassion, trust, love, care, sharing, being valued, feeling worthy, belonging
Instrumental – help or services offered, physical and material assistance
Informational – advice, information, suggestion, communication, companionship, guidance
Appraisal – constructive feedback for self-evaluation, advice, encouragement (p. 233)
For those who struggle to find support, it can become very lonely and stressful. Some people don’t have the option for a healthy support system such as a family or friends, because they may be a negative or dysfunctional part of their lives. So how does one find social support if they are in need to strengthen their own social connectedness? Some ways that one can start to develop social connections is through opening up and sharing needs, getting a pet, looking for a group to join, enrolling in a course study, joining the gym, volunteering, etc. (Karren at el., 2014)
One particular way to build community and social supports is through community drum circles.
Community Drum Circles
Drumming is the simplest way that people can come together and unite. When people come together and drum they are fully involved, moving, producing, and sharing a rhythmic musical experience together that results in harmony, sociability, and a feeling of wellness among the group. This creates and empowers the community. (Hall, 2006)
According to Arthur Hall (2006), the father of drum circle facilitation states that "In its simplest form, a drum circle is a group of people who use drums and percussion to make in the moment music. It creates a physical vibration that penetrates, excites and, at the same time, relaxes the physical, mental and emotional states of being. These vibrations massage and melt away any feelings of separateness that may exist in the bodies of the participants.” (Hall, 2006, 23)
Each person’s part of the music is equally important, regardless of musical experience. Within a drum circle, people are released from language constraints, different economical or social status, age, skill level, or anything else that tends to separate. (Hall, 2006)
Hall (2006) reaffirms that "The same values we need for a strong community are nurtured and rewarded in a facilitated drum circle such as good listening skills, respect, patience, and cooperation. Each individual is equally valuable to the whole. Everybody has a part to play, and no part is any more or any less important than any other part.”(Hall, 2006, 23)
Other ways that community rhythm benefits well-being: it promotes stress relief; positively impacts the brain by strengthening memory and cognitive and motor functions; reinforces higher cognitive learning; increases levels of focus and attention; builds social awareness; improves level of comprehension; builds self-worth; strengthens social and emotional learning; increases motivation; and promotes other psycho-social learning concepts. (Faulkner, 2006)
Drum circles also provide that safe place or environment for others to come and connect with the community. It provides a sense of belonging. Circles can also help with self-awareness by allowing the participants to reflect their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors through rhythm without being constrained. They provide a sense of self and social responsibility and control of our own lives and work with others. Drum circles provide positive relationships and build relational skills to develop supportive, healthy and respectful relationships with others. The musical tempos and volumes impact parts of the brain to help develop emotional regulation and skills. Circles can also promote the reward of giving and supporting others as well. (Faulkner, 2006)
Drum circles are a great prescription for the disconnected parts of society. It has the unifying power that promotes personal and humanity wide health and well-being. Drum circles are being "integrated into many different parts of society as tools for unity, wellness, and fun." (Hall, 2006)
Faulkner, S. (2017). Rhythm to recovery: a practical guide to using percussion, voice and music for social and emotional development. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Hull, A. (2006). Drum circle facilitation: building community through rhythm. Santa Cruz, CA: Village Music Circles.
Karren, K. J., Smith, L., Gordon, K. J., & Frandsen, K. J. (2014). Mind/body health: The effects of attitudes, emotions, and relationships, 5th edition. San Francisco, CA: Pearson.