The Life-Changing Magic of Virtual Fireplaces
Even without real heat, they make a world of difference
As I write this, my windows are rattling with 30 miles per hour wind gusts. The bright new cold is seeping through the cracks beneath the window frames, and the leaves on the trees outside are green, tinged with yellow, having launched their death drive a couple weeks ago. I am barely staving off my own existential terror, for reasons that scarcely need explaining, but on my TV is a cheerily crackling fireplace, valiantly helping me to reenvision the dropping temperatures, at least, as something to be almost excited for instead of dreaded.
It’s a small comfort, but one I’m clinging to. One of the best ways of getting through this is to lean into it — buried under a heap of comfy blankets, book in my lap, dog at my feet, and a (virtual) crackling fireplace before me. Fireplaces, both virtual and real, are shown to be restorative, relaxing, and can even make you sleepy — and who among us is not currently in desperate need of restoration, relaxation, and sleep?
“The pandemic has heightened my anxiety even more so than usual, and I’m honestly always trying to find ways to multiply the coziness factor in my home,” says Steph Coelho, a freelance writer based in Montreal. “Putting these on in the background is comforting. I think the crackling noise is particularly soothing.” Coelho says fireplaces in her area are no longer very common, and that dealing with firewood deliveries seems like “a pain in the ass” anyway.
Alex Wilhelm, a reporter based in Providence, Rhode Island, has two fireplaces in his home, but he doesn’t use them because they’re old and look like they’d leak. Instead, he and his wife find solace in playing a virtual fireplace on their TV. “It is now cold in Providence, so about three days ago we were like, let’s put a fire on the TV for fun — and then it was actually great. Did one with rain in the background and it seemed to quiet the house in a really nice way,” he says. “It puts a good vibe into the room, like 10% of the effect of going to a cabin in the woods where there is snow outside. And in 2020…