SEL & Mindfulness

SEL & Mindfulness

In Ontario, nearly 70% of mental illness challenges begin in early childhood or young adolescents (Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services, 2016). More Canadian children are displaying signs of mental distress because of bullying, anxiety, low confidence, and insecurity (Leitch, 2007). Children are also experiencing stress due to the pandemic (Racine, McArthur, Cooke, Elrich, Ahu, Madigan, 2021).

We know that teaching SEL skills using mindfulness-based practices can mitigate some of these challenges.

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is an umbrella term to include a range of important skills such as self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

  • Self-Awareness: Recognizing one’s thoughts and emotions and how they influence behavior
  • Social Awareness: Embracing different perspectives and showing empathy for others
  • Self-Management: Regulating one’s thoughts, emotions, and behavior in various situations
  • Relationship Skills: Establishing and nurturing healthy, rewarding relationships
  • Responsible Decision Making: Evaluating and making constructive choices by considering the well-being of self and others and evaluating the consequences for various words and actions (CASEL SEL Framework, 1994).

SEL and the new math curriculum

In 2020, the Ontario Ministry of Education revised the mathematics curriculum to include social-emotional learning. The rationale for including this into the curriculum was to develop resilience, confidence, and a growth mindset in students. Ultimately, the goal was for all students to see themselves “as capable and confident math learners. They will recognize that learning from their mistakes is key, and they will learn how to use strategies to work through challenges” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2020).

We work with educators to fulfill the SEL strand in mathematics by teaching students about growth mindset and the benefits to the brain when students are challenged. We celebrate mistakes, understanding that they are a part of learning and growth.


Koa Kids Mindfulness nurtures and supports SEL by embedding mindfulness into the everyday school setting.  Current research suggests that mindfulness has the greatest impact on SEL skills, self-regulation, and emotional regulation in children (Eisenberg et al, 2010; McClelland et al, 2017).

What is Mindfulness?

“Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994).

Mindfulness and Brain Health

Mindfulness strengthens areas of the brain that control ‘executive function’ such as the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus.  For that reason, mindfulness leads to better attention, memory, regulation of emotions and self-awareness.  In turn, improvements in these areas lead to reduced stress, anxiety and depression, and better academic skills, social skills and self-esteem (Keng, S.L,., Smoski, M., & Robins, C. J., 2011).

Mindfulness and Mental Health

The ability to feel and show compassion and kindness for ourselves and others, and to relate positively and effectively with others are core social and emotional capacities.  Such capacities have been shown to be strongly related to levels of wellbeing, acting as a protective factor for mental health, enabling us to feel safe, confident, and effective and thus ready to learn (Greenberg and Jennings, 2009).

Mindfulness and Behaviour

When practicing mindfulness, triggers that would otherwise set off aggressive behaviours, instead create space for the observation of emotions and acceptance.  Mindfulness acts as an anchor that strengthens the mind to work towards more constructive and more positive reactions instead of reacting to everyday situations, including unpleasant mindful states (Flores, 2013).

Mindfulness and Inclusivity

Heartfulness practice directly supports the goals of honouring inclusivity and diversity.  This practice fosters unconditional kindness and care (Hutcherson, C, A., Seppala, E. M., & Gross, J.J., 2008; Kang, Y., Gray, J.R., & Dovidio, J.F., 2014).

Let’s build our children’s future together.