I won’t deny that at the first sign of a cold snap, I pick up the holy trinity of campfire goodness: chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers. Naturally, it’s all “for the kids,” but it would be rude not to partake when we are all sitting around the toasty fire, right?
If you find yourself making excuses for the melty, crunchy goodness that is a fireside s’more, fret no more. As it turns out, sitting by the fire has been proven to reduce blood pressure and increase relaxation. So grab a stick and plop down on a log, here’s all you need to know.
In 2014, Dr. Christopher Lynn, a medical and psychological anthropologist at the University of Alabama, released the findings of his study on the effects of campfires on the human psyche. Dr. Lynn postulated: “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 uninvestigated.” In other words, we know cavemen used fires for cooking and scaring off wild animals, but we have never looked into how it made them feel.
In a 3-year study of 226 participants, Dr. Lynn set out to prove the combination of listening to and watching a campfire had profound social and medical benefits. Participants had their blood pressure taken before, during, and after watching a video of a simulated fire with different variables. The fire video (much like the ones that play non-stop at Christmastime) was watched with and without sound and for different durations of time. What they found was remarkable.
“Results indicated consistent blood pressure decreases in the fire-with-sound condition, particularly with a longer duration of stimulus, and enhancing effects of absorption and prosociality.” Basically, the longer you watch a fire with the sound, the lower your heartrate becomes. It’s campfire-induced relaxation! Still further hypotheses in the study believe this condition comes from our prehistoric days where fire meant safety, food, and social interaction—all factors which increase our comfort and decrease our daily stress.
So the next time someone says you aren’t doing enough for your health, calmly rotate your marshmallow over the softly glowing embers and let them know a campfire is truly good for their body and soul.