What is Social Emotional Learning?

Use Our SEL Curriculum to Create the Foundation for Emotional Well-Being

Social Emotional Learning—or SEL—is the process in which we all develop awareness of our own emotions, how we self-regulate them, and how we use those feelings to connect meaningfully with others. SEL is essential for a variety of reasons that we’ll get into below, but first, it is crucial to understand the primary foundation of social emotional learning—interoception.

Interoception underpins most, if not all, social emotional learning competencies. It provides you with the ability to process and understand the internal condition of your body. Currently, interoception is not embedded in most of the SEL programs being widely used in schools, which means programs are really missing an important piece underlying the skills that they’re trying to target, thus reducing their effectiveness. This is what makes my Interoception Curriculum different than all of the other SEL programs.

Watch How I Feel – Improving Interoception and Mindfulness Video

We know that our body provides clues about our emotions. So if you want to be clear on your emotions, you first need to clear on your body signals. Existing SEL curricula tend to focus on building emotional understanding in self and others, but completely skip the body piece. And while there’s nothing wrong with these programs—any social emotional learning is a step in the right direction—traditional SEL can be a mismatch for learners who need help in building a better foundation. That’s where interoception comes in.

3 Core Competencies of SEL and How Interoception Helps

The Human Body: Social Emotional Learning

Of course, the SEL core competencies vary depending on the specific program or curriculum, but there are three that tend to be widely universal.

Emotional Self-Awareness

The first step in becoming aware of yourself is understanding that your body is what makes you, you. Understanding “This is me. This is my body. This is how I’m feeling” is the start of our SEL journey and becoming aware of our emotions. In fact, emotional self-awareness starts as soon as we’re born—babies are designed to cry when they notice that their body feels uncomfortable. At that point, they don’t fully understand what’s going on with their bodies. But as they grow and interact with their caregiver, their body signals become identified, and a child learns to connect their body signals to the emotion at hand (e.g., when my stomach growls, it means I’m hungry).

In some cases, children that have special needs or have experienced trauma may not have developed these inner connections. So, when they are expected to thrive in a typical SEL curriculum, they may not be ready to answer questions like “How are you feeling?” because they never learned the foundational skills that interoception helps to build.

Emotional Self-Regulation

The second aspect of many SEL curricula is self-regulation or the process of learning to manage your emotions. Once you become aware of your emotions, it sets the stage for self-regulation to emerge. As previously mentioned, interoception plays a key role in clearly knowing how we feel, thus provides an indication when something may be ‘off’ in our body and that it may be time to self-regulate. If a client is not clearly aware of their body-emotion connections, you will likely memorize lots of the coping skills taught in the SEL programs, but not recognize the need to use them in the moment.

Also, when you’re truly in-tune with your body, you can start to learn things that help your body feel more comfortable, making it easier to self-regulate. Conversely, when interoception is a challenge–when your inner experience is confusing– it makes it tricky to identify or connect with what makes your body feel good. That is why The Interoception Curriculum begins with lessons that nurture body curiosity and guide the client in noticing and understanding their own personal body signals and emotions. Then, in the later lessons, it provides a structured approach to exploring a variety of activities, and each person is in control of identifying how each activity makes their body feel. It is so exciting to watch my clients discover their own inner experience and connect with more things that make them feel comfortable.

Building Healthy Relationships

Healthy relationships are important for all of us and are the third aspect common to many SEL curricula. This competency can include understanding how other people feel, nurturing empathy, and effectively establishing connections with others.

According to the latest science, before you are ready to understand how others feel, you need to be able to fully understand how you are feeling first. This circles back to the importance of interoception, which not only underlies our ability to answer the question “How do I feel?” but also answers the question, “How do you feel?” So, to really benefit from this aspect of SEL programs, interoception should be considered first. Otherwise, we are aiming for a skill(s) that might not be developmentally appropriate.

Get Tangible Results for SEL with My Interoception Curriculum & Online Course

To help all children and adults succeed in their social emotional learning journey, there needs to be a strong foundation for understanding one’s own body and emotions. By learning more about interoception, and incorporating it into the current SEL programming, you’re setting the strong groundwork for a lifetime of healthy emotional learning.

You can begin your interoception journey with any of the resources offered on my website, but below are two that I think are core fundamentals in starting your interoception journey.

Interoception Curriculum & Activity Cards

The Interoception Curriculum Front Cover and Activity Cards

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Improve Social Emotional Learning with this Curriculum

The Interoception Curriculum is a step-by-step guide to developing mindful self-regulation. It includes over 600 pages of downloadable instruction materials and is perfect for professionals who want to set up a strong SEL support system. The bundle also includes a set of Interoception Activity Cards, which provide 170 additional activities for SEL learning.

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SEL Online Course


Interoception & Early Learners: Establishing Body Listening From an Early Age

Discover strategies for nurturing interoceptive awareness in both caregivers and early learners.

  • Immediate access to the 1.5-hour course
  • Available on-demand, you can take this course at your own pace
  • Immediate access to the downloadable course handout for guided notetaking
  • BONUS! Exclusive access to a printable geared specifically for caregivers of early learners
  • Earn a personalized certificate of completion for 1.5 hours of learning

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What Are the Benefits of SEL Learning?

children drawing: Social Emotional Learning

If we look at the science, we know that we need good interoception awareness to help develop higher SEL skills. When we build a strong foundation (interoception) for emotional learning, SEL skills become proficient and useable. For example, some kids will just “talk the talk” during SEL classes to get by, but then they won’t (or can’t) apply what they learned on the playground. This is due in part to not having the empathy skills that are built at an earlier stage in social emotional learning.

And while SEL is mostly geared towards children, it can help adults of all ages as well. Social emotional learning is an excellent tool for building healthy relationships, boosting self-esteem by learning more about yourself, and promoting positive mental health. It’s never too late to improve your SEL skills!

Interoception Can Help Unlock Social Emotional Learning

As teachers and learners, we can all agree that any social emotional learning is better than none. My hope is that we take all of the great work that is currently being done with SEL and enhance it with interoception.

By using my interoception curriculum to help improve SEL, you’re setting up future SEL curricula for long-term success. I say this not to discount any current SEL curricula in place, but to help to increase their success. For children that have autism, ADHD, past trauma, or any other emotional differences, teaching them interoception can be a game-changer for bringing about successful SEL learning.

SEL Learning

Learn more about social emotional learning and how you can gain great self-awareness and emotional regulation. Shop my full offering of curricula, activity cards, assessment forms, and more.

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