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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

"Music Hath Charms to Soothe the Savage Breast"

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Nov 15th 2008

 This famous quotation from William Congreve (1670-1629) evidently has a lot more truth to it than he ever realized four hundred years ago.

To complete the quote: "Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast. To soften rocks, or bend the knotted oak."

According to Dr. Michael Miller, Director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, listening to music that makes you feel good could have health benefits that might prevent a heart attack.

According to Dr. Miller, earlier studies showed that music affects heart rate and blood pressure. In addition, he states that laughter and prayer improve cardiac performance.

Dr. Miller's research group selected a group of healthy participants for his study of the effects of music on the cardio vascular system. Subjects selected a type of music that was joyful and made them feel good and a second type of music that made them feel anxious. Using a blood pressure cuff, the researchers discovered that the people who listened to joyful music had an increase in blood flow of the brachial artery, a very healthy response. However, the artery flow decreased when the subjects listened to anxiety producing music.

What is very significant is that the increased artery flow was equal to what people experience after doing aerobic exercise.

So, what this means is that for you to remain heart healthy, it is important to do such things as: a) be careful about what you eat, b) maintain a healthy weight, c) exercise regularly d) provide yourself with the opportunities to laugh as much as possible, and, finally e) listen to music that you find joyful and is not anxiety producing. Performing these types of activities on a regular basis might allow you to prevent a future heart attack or stroke. At least, that is what the findings seem to suggest.

How it works:

So, keeping your heart and mind healthy is very much a "laughing matter." You see, stress is a killer. Stress pumps lots of adrenaline into our system, resulting in the release of all types of bad stuff that clogs our arteries. However, the activities discussed above reduce and even reverse the impact of stress. Music, laughter, exercise and all the others, help release endorphins that create a wonderful, relaxed and euphoric feeling. That is just the opposite of what work and other problems does to us.

Let yourself laugh and, listen to happy music. "Soothe that savage breast" and live longer and happier.

Your comments are welcome.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Mood music. - JR - Nov 20th 2008

So - good news for fans of Mozart and Rossini.  Less, so, perhaps, for those who go for Wagner or Shostakovich.  I don't know.  I like both Mozart and Wagner - do I need to be diagnosed for something ?  I try to steer clear of Irish ballads, these days.  Songs like "Whiskey in the Jar" and "Seven Drunken Nights" seem, for me, contra-indicated at this stage !

With respect to an earlier poster, I would certainly never have my blood pressure tested after listening to (or rather hearing) "Christmas music" of any sort.  The vapid rubbish that constitutes 90 per cent of "Christmas music", omnipresent at this time of year, reminds me of nothing so much as people trying to sell me consumer rubbish that I do not need - or even want.  Not sure that this does much to promote a sunny disposition.

Just kidding.  I think ...

Best regards,


Yes - Allan N Schwartz - Nov 16th 2008

I whole heartedly agree and can tell everyone that, beyond being a therapist and writer for Mental Help Net, music helps me as well.

Allan Schwartz, PhD

Music is great for the soul too! - Dr.T - Nov 16th 2008

Good article. :)

Music, espeically acoustic is great for your mood. I go to Starbucks every other day to get some of my work done, and most of the music they play ranges from jazz and classical, to acoustic music. It's really great for studying, thinking, taking a much needed break after a long day, and relaxing at home in a nice buble-bath! You can find out more at

     I find that music is also great for depression, that is, depending on what types of music you listen to. Usually inspirational or classical music will give you a boost. Love music, espeically the slow melodies, can have a saddening effect on you. For example, say you run into a song that speaks of someone you miss or love or wish you had. This could bring lots of feelings that will either depress you more or stress you out. At least that's what has happened to people I know.

 Another great area of music is Christmas music. I love the really nice, slow-paced Christmas music. Some can truly make you anxious because they are so commercialized. Others, however, give you peace of mind during a really hectic day!

 Try it! I know there are times when music really just doesn't seem like something you'd like to try, espeically when depressed, angry, or stressed. But it really does have a calming effect on the brain. :)

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