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But Nothing.

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”

-Marcus Aurelius

As I write this article, I find myself directionally challenged at a linguistic crossroads. On one hand, I don't believe (nor do I want to endorse) that anyone should limit their vocabulary by omitting any word or set of words. I've never been a fan of censorship as I believe it only serves to stifle growth.. never to promote it. On the other hand, I've both personally and professionally observed the myriad of benefits that come from avoiding the use of certain words or phrases. While it may seem silly at first glance, consciously choosing the words you use in daily language has HUGE health benefits, from mental to physical. There are hundreds if not thousands of articles across the internet (including some scholarly ones) addressing the direct benefits of cutting out the word 'but' from daily language. By and large, these studies help to demonstrate what we already know: that once we remove this rate limiting factor, exponential growth is made possible across the board.

So HOW does it work? And WHY does it help to stop saying but all the time? To begin, when someone uses the word but, they are basically invalidating the first part of their statement (the part that came before 'but'). By its very transitory definition, the word but provides contrast "with what has already been mentioned." (Oxford Languages)

An example: "She said that she'd seen Star Wars, but it was clear she had not." Here, we understand the usage of the word 'but', however.. was it even really necessary? Is there a different way of stating the same thing? What would happen if we switch but to and? Now it reads: "She said that she'd seen Star Wars, and it was clear she had not." While the two statements appear identical in meaning, there are distinct differences. In the first example, a negative term (but) is being used to refute the first part of the statement, wherein the second example, a positive term (and) is used, adding value and information to it. Structurally, the two sentences are the same... minus the one word-change. They even seem to mean the same thing. To quote Jack Nicholson out of context: "What's the difference?"

The difference can actually be found in your DNA. When you use certain words, your outlook and mindset have been shown, scientifically, to become more expansive (we'll get to epigenetics later). On the contrary, using other, more negative words can have a detrimental effect on your growth. In science, a rate limiting factor is a specific part of the equation that prohibits growth or expansion. It's not necessarily harmful.. it simply does NOT promote growth. Therefore, if your purpose is to grow, expand, progress, learn, etc... then using prohibitive and contrarian words like but will only serve to keep you within your current realm.

"Negativity is the enemy of creativity."

-David Lynch

Since the 1970's, Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) has studied the direct impact that words & thoughts have on the human mind & body. These changes have been observed in the patterns, frequencies and means in which people communicate (both verbally and non-verbally). This means we can affect change on our bodies and overall lifestyle patterns by simply adjusting the thoughts we think and the words we use.

In addition to NLP, we know through Epigenetics that most of our DNA is malleable to change. While there is a portion of your DNA (about 15-20%) believed to be "set in stone," the rest is capable of undergoing significant alteration. Think of a single strand of DNA (double-stranded helix, pictured above). In reality, that strand is surrounded by an epigenetic jungle of proteins, methyl groups, histones, and other cellular components necessary to make your genetic code operate. And in this beautifully complex operation, epigenetics is the master regulator of our DNA; it tells it what to do (and not to do). Research has continued to show that lifestyle habits such as diet, exercise, smoking, and even stress, have distinct, measurable effects that can change your epigenome. Changes in lifestyle patterns (how you eat, live, move & speak on a regular basis) are conveyed to your DNA via epigenetics. These changes are fast, stable, reversable, and are capable of being passed onto your children. The expansive possibilities seem (and are) endless!

It doesn't end with but. Refraining from language that is upsetting, negative or otherwise unnecessary can have profound effects on your personal growth. Personally, I tend to avoid using terms such as Good v. Bad, Right v. Wrong, Better v. Worse. Each of these comparative terms comes complete with an adversarial nature or tone, which is not ideal in an expansive environment. It's not a matter of right or wrong (mainly because right and wrong don't exist), rather, it's about what results one can expect to achieve from their actions. A great question to ask yourself when assessing such action is:

"How's this working out for me?"

If you're goal is to get happier, for example, and you've been regularly visiting a therapist, you might ask yourself, "How's this working out for me," after some time, to determine whether or not you should continue going (or not). It would seem a rather large waste of time to continue doing something that's not getting you to your goal. After all.. you started going to therapy (in this example) to achieve some level of satisfaction, and if the therapy isn't getting you that level of satisfaction, maybe it's time to approach the situation from a new and different angle.

"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind."

-Rudyard Kipling

There is most certainly an appeal to living a stress-free, relaxing existence. Without getting too specific or going into detail, most of us can agree on the simple concept that living stress-free is ideal.. as opposed to living a life in which stress plays a significant role. Sure, we could discuss "stress management" or other means of "controlling" stress.. but for the sake of this paragraph (and for that of not stressing yourself out) let's assume Stress Is Bad and that we generally would like to avoid stressful situations.

A great way to get started would be to stop (or at least minimize) the amount of times you use the word but (as well as any other, problematic words) in daily language. Give the practice some time and patience.. and after a short while, ask yourself: "How's this working out for me?" If you've been sincere with your efforts, the results will speak for themselves. Like any other skill, changing your linguistic patterns takes practice. These specific skills are deeply ingrained within us all, so be patient moving forward, always remembering that your ability to biologically change and improve your genetics (through daily lifestyle choices) is absolute.




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