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  • Lou Lim, LMHC, REAT

Swipe Right on Self-Restraint

A common phrase I hear among friends and social circles is “I just binge-watched [insert name of show]”. We live in a world where one can instantly access something that feels good, and as much of it as we want. Whether a movie, groceries, home decor, clothes, or prepared meals, we can essentially "swipe right" to have said item/service delivered within hours or a couple of days. Modern conveniences aren't inherently bad; yet we might consider the value of exercising self-restraint before saying yes to that thing you saw online that you might not actually need. Here are ways I use self-restraint on a day-to-day basis:


  • Think about it and sit on it. Before you decide to get that impulse item while in line or swipe right to buy that item from a certain website, pause and ask yourself if you need it. If the answer isn’t an immediate yes, walk away and come back to it later in the day. I often find that when I walk away and a few hours pass, the item in question is not something I urgently needed or even actually wanted.

  • Weigh out the pros and cons. If you aren’t able to walk away due to an item being on a limited sale, for example, consider weighing the benefits, costs, and stressors related to the item. As I organize that mental list, I gain a clearer picture of whether I want the item because it would be good for me or if I want the item because I am trying to satisfy a different need that could be fulfilled in a healthier manner.

  • Improve before buying. There are times when I want to go get something and part of me wants to have it immediately. Another part of me will ask myself, “Before I go out and buy it, can I find a way to recreate it?” I often realize that I could use something I already have at home that does the same thing or something similar. As a result, I save money and can give myself a pat on the back for thinking creatively, quickly, and spontaneously.

  • Track it and take stock. In the event you do indulge in watching that string of shows or get that special edition item, note it and notice your value of it. Does the purchased item or the completed activity bring joy or improve something within you? Or is that purchase collecting dust when it was meant to be used? When I do this exercise, I realize that if the item is not doing what it is supposed to, I can donate or discard it and either replace it or relish in the newly found space.


Lou Lim is a licensed mental health counselor and registered expressive arts therapist (REAT) with a master's degree in Expressive Therapy and Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University. He is a member of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association and on the committee for REAT credentialing. He has 13 years of experience in counseling and expressive therapy working with children, adolescents, teenagers, adults, and retirees.


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