Does sitting by a crackling open fire generate underlying benefits aside from, say, heat, friendship, or solace? You Bet! Whether a campfire out in the open woods or a cozy firepit in the backyard or on the patio-an open fire provides benefits such as stress reduction well beyond the more obvious light and warmth.
Sitting by a fire helps you reduce your blood pressure. Similarly, a fire immediately helps you relax. A recent study from theUniversity of Alabama is confirming these findings. When people are sitting for 15 minutes observing a video of a crackling blaze, complete with sound, their systolic blood pressure drops by 6 points. Similarly, their diastolic BP drops by 3, on average.
Relaxing in front of an open crackling fire after a stressful day has clear health benefits. The trance-like relaxing effects of a campfire are well known. But now, scientists have found that an open fire reduces blood pressure – the longer people sit in front of a roaring fire, the greater the relaxing effect it has on them.
Science Backs It Up
Brain scans showed that even when the flames and noise are simulated in a laboratory they reduce blood pressure. The findings may even explain why a Norwegian TV network broadcasting a crackling fireplace for 12 hours is consistently one of its season’s top-rated shows.
Campfires and fires in a hearth have played a key role in the evolution of human beings. The flicker and crackle of burning logs are directly linked to human psychology. Dr. Christopher Lynn, a medical and psychological anthropologist, carried out tests on hundreds of volunteers to see how they reacted to a virtual fire.
His three-year study at the University of Alabama found that even a DVD recording of a roaring fireplace triggered primeval instincts. The virtual flames caused all viewers to relax. Dr. Lynn states: “Hearth and campfires are widely held to influence a relaxation effect. Although the importance of controlled fires in human evolution is indisputable, the relaxation aspect had remained largely uninvestigated.”
The reason for the relaxing fire effect harks back to prehistoric times when Stone Age man socialized around campfires. The early man felt safe and warm while bonding with friends, he claims. Fire participants tend to be more sociable. Fire gazers also have stronger familial and social friendship networks.
Evolution, Fire, and Stress Relief
Dr Lynn: “Fires are multi-sensory experiences that still have numerous unexplored dimensions when considering human evolution.”
Why does the warm glow and crackle calm you down? Lynn says humans may have evolved to find fire relaxing because people who managed stress lived longer and reproduced more.
“Stress can kill you, literally, and having means of reducing stress is going to be critical for the survival of species,” he says.