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Dr. Anthony T. DeBenedet on Reviving Your Sense of Wonder

Listen as author and physician Dr. Anthony T. DeBenedet shares tips for regaining and retaining your childlike sense of wonder.


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Hello, my name is Anthony DeBenedet, and I am a practicing physician in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a behavioral science enthusiast. I am here today to talk a little bit about my latest book called Playful Intelligence: The Power of Living Lately in a Serious World and specifically about wonder.

Wonder rehab is a concept that came out of my research for playful intelligence. And the reason it was born is that I was finding, not only me personally, but in the people I was interviewing, that our wonder threshold as adults is really high, meaning that it takes a lot, often, to bring us to a state of wonder. And as I was researching this, I realized that we really need to think about how can we lower that threshold for wonder because what wonder really is is not what we’re experiencing in the world, but how we’re experiencing it.

First is finding a mini-moment that makes you kind of pause during your day. And often, that’s a positive interaction that you see between two people or a positive interaction that you’re having with someone else. It could be a kind gesture. It could be a random act of kindness. And that notion of kind of being aware of that will help lower your overall wonder threshold because wonder, in essence, is an emotion, a playful quality that makes us pause.

The second part to wonder rehab is the notion of thinking about or recalling a childhood memory, a positive childhood memory that you had or that you have. And this could be something as simple as playing with a friend or a family tradition. For me, it’s the ice cream truck coming down my street, and when you take yourself back, in a daydream kind of way, to that childhood memory, that helps remind you what it’s like to have a low threshold for wonder, because all kids have a low threshold for experiencing wonder.

And the final thing is actually noticing wonder in children. So when the kids around you, or if you’re a parent with your own children, noticing their experience with the world, which is often wonder-filled, will help remind you to have a low threshold. So those three things are a wonder rehab in a nutshell.

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