What is Social Emotional Learning?

Social Emotional Learning—or SEL—is the process in which we all can develop our ability to be self-aware of our 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 it’s also crucial to understand the basic foundation of social emotional learning first—interoception.

Interoception underpins most, if not all, social emotional learning competencies. It provides children and adults alike with the ability to better process and understand the internal condition of our bodies. Currently, interoception is not embedded in most of the SEL programs being widely used, which means programs are really missing the science behind the skills that they’re trying to target. It is also what makes my curriculum different.

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To know and understand what emotions you’re feeling, you also need to know what your body is feeling. Existing SEL curricula mostly tend to focus on building up social and relationship skills. And while there’s nothing wrong with these programs—any social emotional learning is a step in the right direction—SEL can be difficult for learners who need a better social emotional foundation. Before you or a child can understand how others feel or how empathy works, everyone needs to be able to fully understand how they’re feeling and what their bodies are telling them. That’s where interoception comes in.

3 Core Competencies of SEL and How Interoception Helps

The Human BodyInteroception is divided into three sections: body, or what physical signals you’re experiencing; emotion, or how you connect those physical signals to an emotion; and action, understanding what to do about how your body is feeling when it reacts in a certain way. These sections align with three of the core competencies of SEL, which is why interoception works as such a strong foundation for more comprehensive social emotional learning.

The SEL core competencies vary depending on which specific courses you’re considering, but there are three that tend to be widely universal.

Self-Awareness

The first step in becoming aware of yourself is understanding that your body is what makes you, you. Knowing “I have a body, and this is how it’s feeling” is what helps contribute to anyone’s SEL journey and becoming aware of their emotions. In fact, self-awareness starts as soon as we’re born—babies cry when they’re uncomfortable and don’t understand what’s going on with their bodies. But as they grow, feelings begin to become identified, and a child learns what hunger, happiness, and other emotions are.

In some cases, children that have special needs or have dealt with trauma may not have developed these skills. So when they jump right into a typical SEL curriculum, they may not know the answers to “How are you feeling?” because they never learned the foundational skills that interoception helps build.

Self-Regulation

Once you become aware of your emotions, self-regulation is the process of learning how to manage those feelings effectively. Interoception is an excellent support for this because it helps you to establish exactly how your body is feeling and how to identify the physical emotions you’re experiencing.

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. For example, taking a walk is a great way to help relieve stress and anxiety. But for many children, they may not understand what makes them feel “calm” or “good” because they don’t have that emotional knowledge to interpret those feelings.

Building Healthy Relationships

Understanding how other people feel, or embracing empathy, is an important stage in any SEL curriculum. Emotional relationships are necessary to help children and adults learn how to work or play well with other people. Having these relationships can actually help children learn how to cope with stress in and out of school, which is why a lot of SEL curriculums are being incorporated into academic programs.

Studies have shown that children need much more than simple academic learning to be successful in life. From compassion and ethical decision-making to constructively handling conflicts, social emotional learning helps children cope and improve in school by building emotional intelligence. In fact, studies show that students achieved an 11% increase in academic achievements after being exposed to an SEL program.

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 yourself, or teaching those around you about it, you’re setting the strong groundwork for a lifetime of healthy emotional learning.

You can begin your emotional mindfulness journey with any of the courses 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

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

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

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What Are the Benefits of SEL Learning?

children drawingIf 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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