What Works For Me: 'I Planted A Mindfulness Garden To Help Me Leave Stress At Work'

Firefighter Mat Rosendale explains why weeding improves his wellbeing.

In ‘What Works For Me’ - a new series of articles considering how we can find balance in our lives - we talk to people about their self-care strategies. If you’d like to contribute your story, email us.

A smiling garden gnome, dressed as a firefighter, oversees an unlikely paradise on the rooftop of Brixton Fire Station. The sound of a water feature, made from a repurposed fire hose, can be heard trickling between the neighbouring sirens, while daffodils and herbs try desperately to make an appearance from their pots, despite the recent cold weather.

The tranquil space is the London Fire Brigade’s first dedicated mindfulness garden, masterminded by Mat Rosendale, a watch manager at the station in charge of a team of 12 firefighters and two fire engines. Mat, 49, wanted to create the garden to provide his colleagues with a space to unwind, reflect and de-stress in between busy shifts. His own role ranges from responding to 999 incidents to leading community fire safety sessions. He tries to visit the space himself every day.

“It’s just nice to escape on your own for 10 minutes, just weeding, tidying and pottering. Then, if you’re very lucky, 10 minutes of admiring your handiwork,” he explains. “That 10 minutes sat quietly in the garden helps me to recharge my batteries and clear my thoughts. It gets me through the day.”

While Mat is clearly a joker among his team - insisting we photograph him in his favourite hat with a prop - he’s also first to admit working in the emergency services can take its toll on mental health. But the garden provides he and his colleagues with the chance to practice mindfulness, by allowing them to reconnect with the present and immerse themselves in nature, which Mat describes as “a form of therapy”.

Mat Rosendale
Mat Rosendale
HuffPost UK

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