It has been a long time since humans learned to light a fire. It was an important discovery, which completely changed our history.
When humans managed to light a fire, they warmed themselves and fried their food. And they got light in the caves they lived in. They learned to forge weapons with strong heat. The fire chased away predators lurking in the dark.
The fire changed our brains
A British researcher believes that fire changed human brains. Before they could light a fire, the circadian rhythm was determined by daylight. Like our monkey relatives, the early humans were not active when it got dark. They slept or relaxed. With light from the fire, the day could be longer, there was more time for activities.
Fried food also made the diet better, the researcher believes. People got more energy. It was good for the development of our brains.
The brain gets tired of concentrating
But even modern people like bonfires and living flames in the fireplace.
Why do we do it today, when we have electricity that provides both light and heat?
Sus Corazon is a researcher at the University of Copenhagen. She has studied how nature affects people who are stressed or depressed.
She explains that we have two ways to be aware. One is targeted. Then we concentrate on what we read or work on.
The problem with concentration is that the brain gets tired. It must sort out everything that is not important and have full focus on the task. We can only do that for a period of time. Then the brain must relax.
The second type of attention does not have a specific goal. Corazon calls it the engrossed attention.
Then the thoughts just flow away like clouds in the sky, says Corazon.
The brain needs breaks
She believes this is good for us humans. This type of attention gives the brain a break.
A bonfire has many small things leading you into the engrossed attention.
– You can see the embers flare, you feel the heat from the fire, you hear the crackling and can smell the smoke. It stimulates the senses, Corazon explains.
People relax better in front of a campfire than otherwise.
Other researchers have also seen that orange candles from campfires can work well for people.
A group of American researchers took a group on a tent trip for three days. They only had natural daylight and bonfires in the evening. It helped on their circadian rhythm.
The artificial blue light we get from the cell phone and lamps can disturb the body. The hormones that are supposed to give us sleep do not start. The brain thinks it’s still day.
Therefore, researchers in Trondheim have tested whether orange light can help patients with mental health problems. They made orange glasses, which block out the blue light. Thus, the brain thinks it is dark.
The patients got a better circadian rhythm. They got more rest and got better.