The Important Relationship between Mindfulness and Social and Emotional Learning

Aug 10, 2021 | Blog

In Part I and Part II of my social and emotional learning (SEL) posts, I discussed the current push to integrate social and emotional learning into our schools, and what a good idea this is for children’s academic and life success. Another topic that has received a lot of focus in schools lately is mindfulness. Let’s explore how mindfulness can also benefit children, especially when combined with social and emotional learning.

Many people often confuse social and emotional learning and mindfulness as being­–or doing–the same thing. Often, schools will choose one practice in favor of the other. However, these are two separate practices that produce two separate skill sets. Optimally, we want to teach both of these practices to students as the skills taught through social and emotional learning support the skills taught through mindfulness, and vice versa.

Social and emotional learning tends to be taught as a set of skills that reinforce relationships with others and making positive decisions. Mindfulness teaches children and adults to become aware of their emotions, thoughts, and bodily sensations and to see how their inner state affects their outer state or behaviors.  Each is an important set of skills for any human, and they work best when paired together.

Social and emotional learning’s “outside-in” approach to looking at our behaviors to make better choices is a strong practice. However, SEL skills such as using “I” messages instead of “you” messages can be hard to put into practice when your emotions are running high.

The “inside-out” approach of mindfulness is a strong practice because teaches us how to sooth and calm strong emotions. But, being able to calm ourselves in an argument isn’t enough if we don’t have the skills to make good choices.

As you can see, social and emotional learning and mindfulness are a powerhouse when combined together to help children and adults develop the skills, outside and in, to achieve both academically and throughout life settings.

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Blog Author: Elandriel Lewis, Senior Manager, Early Learning and Training