5 Ways Mindfulness Can Support Your SEL Goals

Both mindfulness and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) have been receiving significant attention in ed-related discussions recently. An increasing number of studies show that social and emotional intelligence is the foundation to academic achievement. So where does mindfulness fit into the picture, and how can it support SEL goals?  

If you’re a teacher, you’ve probably said the phrases “pay attention” or “calm down” to your students on more than one occasion. We often take these phrases for granted without asking: “Has anyone ever instructed them on how to pay attention or how to calm down?”

We rarely teach self-regulation concepts explicitly. The same way we teach students how to write or do math, we have to teach them the steps and tools required to handle their thoughts and emotions. You can think of mindfulness as the one of those tools. Mindfulness is about building the skills of focus and awareness through practice; it is a practice that they can do when you ask them for a behavioral change like “calm down” or “paying attention”. Numerous studies show that mindfulness in the classroom improves ability to focus attention to productive tasks, sustain motivation when work becomes demanding, handle the frustrations of listening and communicating with peers, and increase one’s ability to understand and manage emotions.

Mindfulness helps students to build critical SEL skills that are increasingly demanded by schools and districts around the world, and for good reason.  

Here are five ways that mindfulness can support your SEL goals:

1. Increased Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is one of the foundations of mindfulness practice, but it is also a key competency of social and emotional learning. Through the practice of mindfulness, students and teachers are regularly tuning in and paying attention to their bodily sensations and emotional reactions. The practice of tuning in to these sensations improves student’s overall awareness, which in turn makes it easier for them to bring this awareness into social, classroom settings.

2. Inside-Out Approach to Self-Regulation

With increased self-awareness, and a practice of focus and concentration, students are better able to self-regulate and “show ready” or “focus” when necessary – maybe even before being reminded to do so! 

3. Skillful Decision-Making

Through the practice of mindfulness, we learn to insert a momentary pause between the stimulus-response-stimulus-response pattern of each day. It is in these moments of pause that allow us to notice our mental states and instinctive reactions and decide instead to act wisely. 

4. Increased Sense of Community

We live in a social world and thrive on human connection. Building self-awareness helps us to bring that skill to our relationships and apply it to social awareness, which would naturally include the practice of compassion and empathy. Mindfulness fosters compassion and is shown to promote more harmonious relationships. Also, when students have strong social awareness skills they naturally support and encourage each other.

5. Safe & Compassionate Classrooms and School Buildings

The most optimal conditions for learning require safety. Aggressive and impulsive behaviors are reduced through the practice of mindfulness, which also helps to regulate emotions and calm fears and anxieties. In addition, bullying and violence are significantly reduced. In fact, in one of the school’s we work with, violence went down by 83% in the first year. With an embedded mindfulness program, schools can ensure that each person in the building has a way to return to center – a safe, happy, and confident place from which they can reset and begin again.    

As mutually beneficial skill sets, it is useful to implement mindfulness and SEL together in a comprehensive way that supports school-school-wide learning where the community lives this work for themselves and models it for their students. Interested in learning more about how you can bring Center for Resilience’s year-long mindfulness-based SEL program to your school? Applications are now being accepted for the 2019-20 academic year where we will again serve 1,000 students and their teachers all working toward the same goals – healthy, safe, responsive spaces in which to grow and learn.  Check out our website for additional details.