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It’s dark and storming outside. The wind whips the tree branches as rain taps on the windowpanes; every few moments a crack of thunder breaks through and rumbles the whole house. But, you’ve hardly noticed – too mesmerized by the bright orange and yellow flames dancing and crackling in the hearth, you’d all but forgotten your immediate surroundings and the intensity of the storm.

If you’ve ever found yourself entranced by the multisensory experience of watching fire, you’re not alone. A primal force that is equal parts beautiful and destructive, humanity has had a strong relationship with fire since the dawn of time. Keep reading to learn more about the science behind our fascination with flames – exploring how fire has shaped us and discovering how and why gazing into it might even be good for our well-being.

Have immediate fire-related questions or concerns? Call your local Ashbusters pros at 615-459-2546 to get answers today.

How Has Fire Played a Role in Our Evolution?

While it’s impossible to know the first human discovery of combustion, we do know that for as long as humans have inhabited the earth, our species has separated itself from the rest of the animal kingdom by way of two things: language and fire. In fact, research shows that evolutionary expert Charles Darwin believed fire – or at least the control and manipulation of it – was the greatest discovery in human history.

Not only did our ancestors discover the warmth and lighting capabilities fire afforded, but they also learned to harness these properties to diversify their diets. Fire brought forth the ability to cook, which is ultimately what scientists believe set humans apart from their more primitive predecessors. This opportunity to cook food as opposed to relying solely on foraged raw materials was beneficial for two main reasons: cooked food provides more energy, slowing down digestion and the need to eat frequently, and also vastly widens the scope of what is safe to eat since the process of cooking food eliminates dangerous bacteria. 

Why Do Flames Hypnotize Us?

Using fire to warm our homes, diversify our diets, and encourage time spent together in community are all wonderful advancements, but what about fire’s impacts on our brains?

  • Pattern Recognition: The human mind is hardwired to pick up on patterns. And thanks to flame’s ever-changing dance of light and shadow, we’re drawn to the flicker frequency. It’s quite like a visual lullaby: helping to sooth us into a relaxed yet focused state.
  • Increased Skill Development: Many scientists also believe that fire has played a very vital role in developing necessary skills like long-term memory and problem-solving. By altering the circadian rhythm, humans could evade animal interference and achieve more time spent in REM sleep, improving the ability to learn more complex skills. This is how humans today are now awake and/or active for close to 16 hours.
  • Altered Mental State: However, arguably more interesting, gazing into the dancing flames of a fire encourages our minds to slow down and focus on the activity happening before us. When we achieve a mental state of calm presence, our brainwaves slowly shift from those that govern higher thought to the ones associated with relaxation, intuition, and meditation.
Original infographic stating 3 fun facts about fire as it related to the brain

Can Fire Make You Mindful? Are There Other Health Benefits?

Absolutely. Fire is a meditative aid that certainly stands the test of time…even if it’s a mere rendering of one on a laptop or TV screen. “Fire gazing” – the term used to describe such a phenomenon of staring into a flickering flame – can improve mental well-being by encouraging relaxation and present-moment awareness.

But the mindfulness piece is only one of a handful. Here are some other health benefits associated with fire:

  • Connection With Others/Social Bonding: Just as our ancestors learned, gathering around the fire fosters feelings of togetherness and a sense of belonging. Since humans aren’t solitary creatures, this is vital for our overall mental, physical, and emotional health.
  • Improved Mood: The warmth and light from a fire can elevate mood by triggering the release of endorphins and enhancing feelings of comfort and security.
  • Therapeutic Heat: The heat from a fire can provide much-needed relief for muscle tension and joint pain, promoting physical relaxation and comfort.
  • A Break from Modern Stressors: Our lives today are far busier and more complicated than they once were. Taking the time to notice the repetitive visual rhythms produced during a fire, we can both enhance our focus and concentration and get a bit of a mental break from daily tasks, too.

Looking to Add Some Warmth to Your Life? Call Ashbusters Today

If this post has you craving a gorgeous home fire experience and you live in the Nashville, TN area, Ashbusters Chimney Service is just the place to call. Our dedicated and knowledgeable chimney and fireplace specialists can help you decide on a new appliance or schedule a service to repair your existing fireplace, insert, or stove.

See for yourself why fire has been such an instrumental part of human life; give us a call at 615-459-2546 or fill out our contact form to get started today.