Thrive News//

Instagram’s 10-Year Challenge is More Powerful Than It Seems — Here’s Why

Everyone’s focusing on the images, but the buzzy meme has a deeper effect.

When Instagram’s viral #10YearChallenge trend began flooding our feeds this week, we couldn’t turn away. The #10YearChallenge encourages users to post two side-by-side photos — one from 10 years ago, and one from today. Celebrities like Jessica Biel, Reese Witherspoon, LeAnn Rimes, Cynthia Nixon, Alexis Ohanian, Busy Phillips, Viola Davis, Ryan Seacrest, and Candace Bure posted their own comparisons over the weekend.

The obvious draw of the challenge is to marvel at how much (or how little) these celebrities — and all our own friends doing the challenge — have changed physically over the years. But some of the more poignant captions accompanying the before/after snaps got us thinking about the importance of reframing how we think of aging.

“There’s a psychological benefit to nostalgia,” Hal McDonald, Ph.D., a professor of literature and linguistics at Mars Hill University, tells Thrive Global. “When you look back on good times, your memories trigger the reward centers in your brain, causing you to feel pleasure, and even bringing you back to that time.” But posting about our nostalgic photos can also make us feel worse, says McDonald. “There’s something called positivity bias,” he explains, “which makes us remember things in a more positive light, and can make us feel worse about our present lives.”


Like everything we do online, there’s a healthy way to engage in the trend, and an unhealthy way — and McDonald says the line between the two can often come down to your own mindset. If you’re looking to harness nostalgia positively, here are some tips to keep in mind:

For every past memory, think of a future goal

Posting happy photos from 10 years ago can bring us back to a time where we potentially felt more fulfilled, healthier, and even happier, so it’s important to place just as much emphasis on moving forward, too, says McDonald. “Think of life as a journey forward,” McDonald urges. “Remember that the good things in your past can happen again in the future.” In her post, LeAnn Rimes captured this advice perfectly in her #10YearChallenge post: “I Love aging! Wisdom comes with a wrinkle or two… and I’ll take it! The woman I am in 2019 is way more joyful, settled, connected, and peaceful than I was 10 years ago and I’m still expanding into all of these pieces of myself. I am grateful for who I was in 2009, who I am now and every version of me in between. I look forward to creating more smile lines.”

Channel nostalgia to feel healthier

In a study authored by behavioral scientist Clay Routledge, the researchers found that recalling a nostalgic memory from high school helped adults feel more youthful than when they recalled an ordinary high school memory. Study subjects who felt more youthful also felt healthier, more confident about their physical abilities, and more optimistic about their future health. The results prove that a hit of nostalgia can actually make us feel younger, which has benefits for our health. Reese Witherspoon, who seemingly hasn’t aged a day in 10 years, exemplified this feeling in her post, writing: “Time sure does fly when you are having fun!!”

Use the social aspect to reconnect

“Nostalgia can make us feel lonely, but it can also act as a social connector,” McDonald says. Instead of focusing on the friends you’ve lost touch with, use your old memories to reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, he suggests.

Focus on the how far you’ve come

“It’s okay to have fond memories and to reminisce on those memories,” McDonald says, “but realizing what you’ve achieved since then is the critical part.” Cynthia Nixon illustrated this idea brilliantly by referencing her reinvention from “Sex and the City” actress to political contender in her simple but poignant post, which reads: “From Cosmos to Cuomo.”

But, if you want to forego the 10 year challenge and focus on being in the now:

That’s just as good! Demi Lovato has chosen this approach, posting the message: “Sorry, I’d love to post a #10yearchallenge pic, but I’m too busy living in the moment.”


Follow us here and subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.

    The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...

    Best of 10 Year Challenge
    Community//

    Best of 10 Year Challenge Posts From Across the Internet

    by Digital Vijay
    Community//

    When Fun Turns To Danger | The 10 Best And Worst Viral Online Challenges

    by Delfina Forstmann
    Community//

    The 10 Year Challenge : It’s not just your appearance that’s changed

    by Deborah Hartung

    Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

    Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

    Thrive Global
    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - MARCUS AURELIUS

    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.