What is SEL and how can it prevent alcohol use?

Keeping our kids safe and healthy begins when they are little by teaching them things like goal setting, making good decision, and how to be kind to one another. One way to do that is to incorporate Social-Emotional Learning into our everyday lives.

More and more, behaviors of children, youth, and communities are being classified as at-risk in societies locally and globally. Behaviors associated with the at-risk classification are: aggression at home, school and in the community, underperformance and underachievement at school, and truancy. Acquiring social emotional competencies (SECs) is an effective way of diminishing and eventually eliminating these behaviors. Acquiring these SECs from as early as kindergarten acts as a protective factor against maladaptive and risky behaviors later on in life.

Social-Emotional Learning: skills, tools, and attitudes that let us have more meaningful connections, teach us how to be resilient, manage our emotions, conflict and more.

Choosing Love requires emotional intelligence. Thoughts have the power to impact us on a cellular level: physically, mentally, and emotionally. We have around 50,000 thoughts each day. The majority of them are negative, angry or unproductive and run on repeat all day long. However, thoughts can be changed! Our negative thoughts can be changed into loving thoughts, and over time this can actually REWIRE our brains which is called neuroplasticity. That means that over time by changing angry thoughts to loving thoughts we reprogram our brains to literally change our mind! In order to do this we need to understand the relationship between thoughts and emotions. The ability to identify and manage thoughts and emotions is called Emotional Intelligence. This is a skill we are not born with. The better we understand our thoughts and emotions work in our brains, the more we become able to Choose Love.

Our brain controls not only our thoughts and emotions, but also our reactions. By understanding the neuroscience behind how our thoughts and emotions influence our reactions, we can learn to control how we react to any situation. We can choose to respond with love instead of anger, hate or fear.

Now we are going to review the formula for choosing love.

Courage + Gratitude + Forgiveness + Compassion= The Choose Love Formula

We start with Courage because courage is the basis for almost everything we do on a daily basis. It takes courage to be kind when someone isn’t be kind to you, it takes courage to put your best foot forward. Courage is the ability and willingness to work through obstacles despite feeling embarrassed, afraid, reluctant, or uncertain. It also helps you do the right thing when you are afraid or unsure. Big acts of courage can help you confront danger, while small acts of courage help you with everyday challenges. You can show courage by:

· Being honest

· Expressing your thoughts and feelings

· Helping others

· Stepping outside your comfort zone

Gratitude is the second component in the Choose Love Formula. Gratitude is the great Mind Shifter. You cannot have two thoughts at once. You cannot have a grateful thought and a negative thought at the same time and research points to attitude leading toward to greater happiness which is something all humans have in common. Having gratitude is mindful thankfulness even when things are challenging, such as this current health epidemic or abstaining from things like alcohol or tobacco.

Forgiveness is so vitally important. When we do not have control, we tend to feel anxious, frustrated, and angry which can lead to bad decision making such as choosing to use substances such as alcohol instead of CHOOSING LOVE. It is the key to resilience to gratitude and the key to resilience. It can cut the cord that attached you to pain. It doesn’t mean you forget or condone the action. It simply means that you are taking your personal power back. .

The last character value is compassion in action. Compassion has two components, there is the identifying component and the action component. It is not enough to understand someone else’s suffering. You need to do something to help them if you are practicing compassion in action. This could look like helping a loved one join an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, being supportive if they are trying to quit smoking or vaping, and trying to understand their substance use from their point of view. It is actually scientifically proven that through the compassion component, all the love and energy that we give comes back to us! Research shows a 22% decreased mortality when we do for others.

Choosing Love is a science, you can rewire your brain to choose love. We cannot always choose what happens us but we can choose how we react, and if we strive to use the Choose Love formula can help us to be grateful when live isn’t easy, find the courage to forgive even when the person who hurt you isn’t sorry, and to step outside your own pain and business to help someone else. Let’s be the start to having a more peaceful, loving and understanding world!


Social-Emotional Learning and At-Risk Children and Youth

Yvonne I. Larrier

Indiana University South Bend

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