Playful Intelligence: The Power of Living Lightly in a Serious World

Playful Intelligence: The Power of Living Lightly in a Serious World
Anthony T. DeBenedet, MD
May 2018
Social Sciences
5.5 x 8.5
Trade Paperback

As adults, we have more responsibilities than we could have ever imagined growing up. Learning the work of marriage. Navigating the bumpy terrain of parenting. Maintaining social relationships. Facing grave hardship. Finding contentment in our career.

As the years pass by, we sense how the good things in life are so often eclipsed by stress. We find ourselves doing everything we can just to endure adulthood, all the while wondering whether we are actually enjoying it. This is exactly why Dr. Anthony T. DeBenedet decided to write Playful Intelligence: The Power of Living Lightly in a Serious World, to show readers how playfulness helps us counterbalance the seriousness of adulthood.

“Five years ago, my life was becoming more intense and stressful,” DeBenedet says. “My relationships, clinical work as a physician, and basic interactions with the world were blurring into a frazzled mosaic. Going through the motions became my norm, and every day brought busyness and exhaustion. I thought about whether I was depressed. I didn’t think I was. Anxious? Sure, but aren’t we all anxious on some level? I also thought about the lifestyle factors that could be making me feel this way. Was I getting enough sleep? Was I exercising regularly? Was I eating healthy? Was I playing and remembering to be playful?”

Today, we live in a taxing world. The endless pressure to keep up with our responsibilities and the daily headlines swarming around us can be overwhelming. DeBenedet’s work comes at a time when stress, uncertainty, and intensity levels are high. Playful Intelligence shows adults that there is a way to live lighter—and smarter—as we navigate the seriousness of adulthood. It’s not about taking life less seriously; it’s about taking ourselves less seriously.

The book’s core chapters are devoted to exploring the effects and benefits of five playful qualities: imagination, sociability, humor, spontaneity, and wonder. By examining playfulness as a sum of its parts, readers will gain a working awareness of its power and be able to apply playful principles to their own lives, bringing the magic of childhood back into their day-to-day existence. The book also offers practical suggestions on how to make life more playful in nature.

Read Excerpt
Author Information

Anthony T. DeBenedet, MD

Anthony T. DeBenedet, M.D. is a practicing physician and behavioral-science enthusiast. His interviews and writings have run in various media outlets, including the New York Times, the Today show, the Washington Post, and TIME Ideas. He also co-authored The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It (Quirk Books, 2011), a parenting book about the importance of parent–child physical play. DeBenedet has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biomedical Engineering from the Duke University Pratt School of Engineering, a Master of Science Degree in Health and Healthcare Research from the University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School, and a Doctor of Medicine Degree from the University of Virginia School of Medicine. He completed his internal medicine residency and gastroenterology fellowship at the University of Michigan Health System. DeBenedet lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he enjoys spending time with his family, connecting with friends, and playing a little basketball.


“Anthony DeBenedet’s timely work shows us how playfulness makes us better and offers a simple framework for integrating playfulness into our day-to-day lives. An antidote to the pressure, seriousness, and responsibility overload that defines much of adulthood, Playful Intelligence is the perfect prescription for our high-stress lives.”
—Jonah Berger, bestselling author of Contagious and Invisible Influence

“By breaking playfulness down into its component parts, DeBenedet invites us on a delightful adventure filled with compelling research, inspiring stories, and practical steps that makes it possible for us to cultivate this elusive quality and unleash it into our daily lives. In other words, he provides our magical inner child with an escape route through the thicket of our adult conditioning. The world just became a more humane and playful place!”
—Gwen Gordon, Emmy Award-winning creative director and author of The Wonderful W

“Anthony’s own playful intelligence shines through every page of this delightful and thought-provoking book. His real gift, however, is showing the rest of us how to be more playful in our adult lives. If everyone took the guidance in this book to heart, the world would be a much better place!”
—Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D., author of Playful Parenting

Playful Intelligence is exactly what the doctor ordered! In his new book, DeBenedet beautifully combines his expertise as a physician, behavioral-science aficionado, and fun-loving human being, and writes us the perfect prescription for a happier, healthier, and more playfully engaged life. By breaking down playfulness into its five key components, and sharing ways to incorporate the power of play into our everyday lives, this book gives adults the permission they need to work hard, and play harder.”
—Meredith Sinclair, M. Ed., lifestyle expert and author of Well Played: The Ultimate Guide to Awakening Your Family’s Playful Spirit