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The authors hypothesized that a social and emotional learning (SEL) program involving mindfulness and caring for others, designed for elementary school students, would enhance cognitive control, reduce stress, promote well-being and prosociality, and produce positive school outcomes. To test this hypothesis, 4 classes of combined 4th and 5th graders (N = 99) were randomly assigned to receive the SEL with mindfulness program versus a regular social responsibility program. Measures assessed executive functions (EFs), stress physiology via salivary cortisol, well-being (self-reports), prosociality and peer acceptance (peer reports), and math grades. Relative to children in the social responsibility program, children who received the SEL program with mindfulness (a) improved more in their cognitive control and stress physiology; (b) reported greater empathy, perspective-taking, emotional control, optimism, school self-concept, and mindfulness, (c) showed greater decreases in self-reported symptoms of depression and peer-rated aggression, (d) were rated by peers as more prosocial, and (e) increased in peer acceptance (or sociometric popularity). The results of this investigation suggest the promise of this SEL intervention and address a lacuna in the scientific literature-identifying strategies not only to ameliorate children's problems but also to cultivate their well-being and thriving. Directions for future research are discussed.

A fundamental mission of schooling is to educate the “whole child” which includes promoting both cognitive and noncognitive skills. Research has revealed schools to be one of the primary settings promote social-emotional learning (SEL). SEL encompasses the processes through which individuals attain and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to identify and manage their emotions; understand another’s perspective and show empathy for others; set and achieve positive goals; develop and sustain positive relationships; and make responsible decisions. In a similar vein, contemplative education seeks to educate the whole child, with a focus on developing mindful awareness, values for moral living, caring for others, learning, and personal growth. Increasingly, school-based primary prevention efforts are incorporating mindfulness-based practices, to foster attention, resiliency, and well-being. Mindfulness is a state of consciousness that involves the direction of attention that incorporates self-awareness with a core characteristic of being open, receptive, and nonjudgmental. Both SEL and mindfulness-based initiatives in education emphasize the development of positive self, moral, social, and emotional understanding. What has been missing in the literature is a clear theoretical, empirical, and practical, articulation of how mindfulness-based practices align with SEL. This article puts forth a conceptual framework that describes how mindfulness practices may deepen SEL within K-12 educational contexts. Future directions for the field of mindfulness and SEL are also discussed.

In this chapter, we describe the MindUP program: A universal, mindfulness-based social and emotional learning (SEL) program designed to be implemented in schools by regular classroom teachers. We discuss how mindfulness practices and SEL activities may be synergistic, potentially bolstering the efficacy of each, and describe the iterative process of developing, implementing, and evaluating a program that includes both elements. We suggest that the transitional years of pre- and early adolescence (i.e., 9-12 year olds) may be a particularly effective time to introduce mindfulness practices to young people. We emphasize the importance of interdisciplinary research in evaluating mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) for students and teachers alike, research that utilizes mixed-method designs and that examines multiple outcomes from multiple observers (e.g., self-reports, teacher reports, peer reports). To illustrate our perspective on implementation science and mindfulness programs in education, we provide an overview of several studies conducted on MindUP. Furthermore, we report findings from research examining students’ and teachers’ descriptions of their experiences with MindUP as a way in which to further understand the program’s effectiveness from the perspectives of the consumers. Finally, we discuss potential directions for future research on mindfulness-based SEL programs.