Almost everyone agrees that sitting around a fire is a relaxing, pleasurable experience. Because this appeal seems universal, it’s easy to believe that our fascination with fire is instinctual.
According to research at the University of Alabama, watching a fire lowers blood pressure. This suggests that it reduces stress, increases pleasure and provides health benefits.
More specifically, the U of A research showed that it wasn’t enough to ‘watch’ a fire. The physiological results did not happen when subjects looked at muted video recordings of fire. The study demonstrated that sitting fireside, engaging all senses in the experience, provided the clearest results. Researchers hypothesized that our contemporary reaction to the fire stimulus is directly related to our relationship to fire in prehistoric times when the “multisensory — visual, auditory, olfactory, heat, smoke/food taste — stimulation of fires would have made a great focus of attention, particularly in the dark.”
The study went on to indicate that the relaxing effect was particularly pronounced in participants who scored higher in pro-social behaviors, like empathy and altruism. This supported the hypothesis that there is a connection between our instinctual attraction to sitting around the fire, with our ability to develop social cohesion.
“Archaeological evidence suggests ancestors probably started using fire thousands of years before they figured out how to start one,” one researcher explained. “Therefore, especially in the colder climates, sitting around a fire to keep it going would have been a very important job. Collecting kindling, keeping the fire going, cooking — all these things required cooperation, at least when conditions were poor. Those groups more successful at keeping the fire going would have had an advantage over groups that didn’t.”
One the other hand, our fascination with fire might come from our lack of understanding of and inadequate experience with fire. Other researchers have found that in societies where fire is a common daily tool for warmth and cooking, children engage in ‘fire play’ only until the age of 7. Fire play, like other forms of play, is critical in the development of more mature behaviour. In societies where fire is used rarely, children continue fire play activities until much later in age. In fact, this research suggests that our “modern Western fascination with fire may reflect the unnatural prolongation into adulthood of a motivational system that normally serves to spur children to master an important skill during maturation."
Whether we love sitting around a campfire because it’s instinctual, or because we weren’t exposed to it enough as kids, the fact remains: we love it.
Make the most of your campfire experience in your back yard or at your vacation property. The intriguingly beautiful fire pits from Solariswill add an appealing, dramatic effect. Handcrafted by Rick Wittrig, these steel fire pits have incredible durability. Talk to us today about how your next fire can be lit in Fire Pit Art®