How Mindfulness Fits into the SEL Framework

Schools are increasingly recognizing the power of social and emotional skills and their positive impact on students’ success. As such, new programs are being developed to encourage social and emotional skill development, including things like self-management and empathy. Social and emotional learning (SEL) and mindfulness are highly complimentary of each other and together can promote students’ ability to thrive in school and in life.

Many students experience toxic levels of stress in their everyday lives, which may be caused by factors such as poverty, violence, social pressure, or unrealistic expectations. High stress levels have been shown to reduce attention, impair self-regulation, decrease learning readiness, and lead to negative well-being factors, such as sleep and eating disorders. Extended exposure to toxic stress also can have lasting mental and physical health effects.

One way to reduce the negative effects of extreme stress is through mindfulness. Mindfulness involves an awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations and how they can impact your actions. This framework has been proven to effectively help students recognize triggers and changes within their bodies, which can help them calm and regulate their emotions before they act on the trigger in a negative way.

One way to understand the relationship between mindfulness and SEL is with the adage, “Mindfulness is the canvas and SEL skills are the paint.” SEL is a natural compliment to mindfulness, and vice versa. Whereas mindfulness works from the inside-out, SEL addresses students’ needs from the outside-in. Students need to know how to monitor their inner selves, but they also need to know how to apply social and emotional competencies externally, e.g. to support conflict resolution, goal-setting, and relationship building.

When taught together, mindfulness and SEL can have a powerful affect on students’ ability to manage emotions and demonstrate social and emotional aptitude. This in turn leads to improved behavior and academic outcomes. Want to learn more about how to implement these two frameworks within the classroom?

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