The Psychological Benefits of Sitting By a Fireplace
Fireplaces are popular as sources of supplemental heating, as we all know. They’re also welcomed additions to virtually any home because of how well they accent the surrounding décor. But there’s another benefit to operating a fireplace, and it’s rooted in the mind, according to research from the University of Alabama.
We’ve always known that sitting by a fireplace is relaxing. Now we know why. U of A research shows that watching a fire has a significant effect on people’s blood pressure.
5% drop in blood pressure while watching a fire
The study included 226 adults who were asked to watch a video of a roaring fireplace. Baseline blood pressure was taken prior to watching the video and compared with readings after the participants had finished the video.
The results were interesting. People who watched the video with sound registered an average five-percent decrease in their blood pressure. This isn’t surprising. Lapping flames in a fireplace make for a hypnotically relaxing experience. However, the participants’ experience of looking at fire became unrelaxing when a few changes were made.
Individuals registered varying levels of increased blood pressure when they watched the video without sound. Blood pressure also increased when the video of the fire was presented upside-down.
An empty mind = a relaxed body
The reason we experience internal relaxation when watching a “normal” fire is, according to the researchers, because our mind is drawn into the flames, and the longer this happens, the more we let go of the jumble of every-day concerns. In this non-distracted, peaceful state, anxieties are naturally reduced.
Relaxation leading to a reduction in blood pressure was seen most prominently in the study’s subjects who in initial tests scored higher for positive social behaviors such as generosity and empathy.
Being drawn to fire is nothing new. Since ancient times, surely not long after the discovery of how to make fire, people have enjoyed sitting around a fire as part of their daily routines. Way back then they probably didn’t know they were being psychologically bolstered by focusing on the flames, but that’s exactly what was happening, and it’s why fires built for warmth and ambience have been attracting people ever since.
The University of Alabama study hypothesized that the evolution of the species has much to do with our fascination with fire today. Thousands of years ago, fires had more meaning than they do in modern times, and the use of fire for warmth and cooking was widespread. Behaviors that are strong, consistent and full of meaning are often passed down to successive generations.
So today we enjoy a blazing fire in our fireplaces, and now we know why we like it so much: fire commands our attention, and as we watch the flames, our minds empty a little and a sense of relaxation and peace moves into the emptiness.
Burlington Fireplace & Heating of Wisconsin believes everyone should have the opportunity to reap the benefits of the beauty of fire. Shop us first for all hearth products including fireplaces, stoves, inserts and accessories. We also install gas, wood and electric fireplaces.
Visit us at 857 Milwaukee Ave. in Burlington, or reach us by phone at (262) 763-3522.