Anthropologists from the University of Alabama believe that modern day humans find open fires so relaxing due to our evolutionary path. Scientific studies have proven that our blood pressure goes down when we stare into flames and the effect it has on us now is thought to be the same effect it had on ancient man too. Fire is deep rooted in our existence and prehistoric people would have gathered around campfires to keep warm and strengthen social ties which gave them a survival advantage.

Humans have evolved to feel calmer sitting by a campfire according to anthropologists. Sitting by an open fire when it’s cold and miserable outside is considered the perfect winter evening by many people. And it seems that our love of the hearth is borne out of our evolution. Studies have shown that sitting by a fire lowers our blood pressure and makes us feel calmer. For Defra approved wood burning stoves, visit http://www.stoveworlduk.co.uk/DEFRA-Approved-Multi-Fuel-Woodburning-Stoves.

The reason for the relaxing effect harks back to prehistoric times when Stone Age man socialised around campfires and felt safe and warm while bonding with friends. Experiments involving 226 people included spending time watching a video of a fire and the sound effects. Their blood pressure was measured before and after the video for various periods of time. What became evident was there was consistent blood pressure decreases across all participants and the longer they watched the video, the more relaxed they felt. Another result noticed was that participants seemed to become more sociable too. Therefore the findings confirmed that campfires induce relaxation as a multisensory and social experience.

Awakening our inner caveman

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Early humans would have learned to associate the flickering light, crackling sounds, warmth and distinctive smells of fires with safety, relaxation and friendship. Fire was an essential way of extending the day and offering a chance to unwind after a stressful day of hunting. The fire also acted as a way to ward off predators and harmful insects, made it easier to see and enabled meat to be cooked. It can be said that man learned the importance of socialisation and relaxation because of fire enhancing social behaviour.

The discovery of fire and the ability to control that fire was, out of necessity, one of the earliest of human discoveries. Fire’s purposes are multiple, which include to add light and heat, to cook plants and animals, to clear forests for planting, to heat-treat stone for making stone tools and to keep predator animals away. Undeniably, there are social purposes as well: as gathering places, as beacons for those away from camp and as spaces for special activities. Controlling fire would have required a cognitive ability to conceptualize the idea of fire, which has also been seen in chimpanzees. Great apes have been known to prefer cooked foods, so the very great age of the earliest human fire experimentation should not come as too much of a surprise.