I am supposed to post a photo of myself from 10 years ago. I gather it’s best if I look attractive but somewhat unfulfilled. Lacking in hard-won wisdom. The absence of life experience and self-possession will serve to offset the youthful vibrance, sufficient collagen supply, and lack of child-rearing exposure in the face of my former self.
Or, is it better to choose an unflattering photo? My most questionable fashion choice, dated hairstyle, or the period when my eyebrows were way too thin?
Because the commentary that accompanies the 10-Year Challenge, which began sweeping social media earlier this week, is just as important as the photos. A hallmark of the digital age: the stories we depict of ourselves online influence who we are in the world.
In a few days — which can feel like 10 years in the world of social media — we’ve watched celebrities, friends, and social-media “friends” evolve from one decade to the next. Social media superpower Chrissy Teigen remarked on the injustice of her husband, singer/songwriter John Legend, seemingly not aging, and my friend Juan Carlos quipped in side-by-side beach photos that he may have less hair now, but is equally confident wearing less clothing.
The whole thing is fun and silly and a sign of our times, of course. But my wheelhouse is wellness, and my personal thoughts on aging are that — wait for it — it happens.
Looking and feeling younger when one is 10 years older is, let’s face it, often the magic of good lighting, probable cosmetic surgery, and the best hair and makeup people in the business. And yet looking and feeling our best is a perfectly reasonable goal to have at any age.
The reality is that while we post, comment, and chuckle at our transformations, the act of aging is as analog a process as you can find. We may catalogue it for years online, but we feel our own health and vitality — or lack thereof — in real time. And who among us couldn’t use a real-time boost?
To that end, here are 10 tried and true ways to look and feel your best, now or for the next 10-year challenge:
1. More water. Our bodies are predominantly made of water (roughly 60 percent), so it makes sense that when the body isn’t well hydrated, its basic functions become sluggish. Not to mention that our complexions start to look like we are wearing a drab and moody Instagram filter 24-seven.
2. Less booze. Suffice it to say, no one ever drinks too much one night and awakens the next day looking and feeling younger and sprier. There’s a reason Dry January is a thing; the benefits of drinking less are manifold and meaningful, as well as photogenic.
3. More vegetables. I suspect this is Tom Brady’s secret.
4. Less meat. Not only is less meat better for your health, it’s also better for the environment. Red meat, in particular, demands an outsized portion of pesticides, fertilizer, fuel, and water, while producing greenhouse gases and other toxic chemicals that end up in our air and water. Of all the 10-year challenges featuring weight-loss transformations this week, the most shocking was one depicting the polar ice caps a decade ago versus now, a glaring and urgent reminder that our planet needs immediate protecting.
5. More fat. Low-fat and fat-free foods are a relic of the ’90s. Our bodies need to eat plenty of good fat to feel full, run efficiently, and glow like J-Lo, who, in part, credits eating salmon regularly for her jaw-dropping fitness at age 50.
6. Less stress. We can’t escape it, but our ability to manage stress is crucial to our mental, physical, and emotional health. The most moving 10-year challenges in my feed featured friends sharing the trials they weathered along the way. And there is something inspiring and courageous about revealing our hardships under a photo in which we can still smile.
7. More eyebrows. Learn from my mistake, people. Beauty professionals call them the picture frames of the face. Bold frames best accentuate your best features and make you look younger and less like a surprised scarecrow.
8. Less sexism. Stop calling aging men rugged silver foxes and women of the same age tired or haggard. Sexism is so unbecoming.
9. More mindfulness. If there were a magic pill to reduce stress and anxiety, stabilize emotions, and lower blood pressure, we would all take it in a heartbeat. Meditation is proven to support all of these health benefits, and it’s never too late to start.
10. Less time on social media. Oh, sure, these challenges and the platforms that create them are fun, but they also inevitably take time away from other things that are important to mind and body health, such as adequate sleep, plenty of exercise, and quality time with people we love IRL — that’s Internet-speak for in real life, which is what matters most this year, in 10 years, and always.
Rebecca Pacheco is a writer, speaker, and yoga and meditation teacher. She is the author of “Do Your Om Thing: Bending Yoga Tradition to Fit Your Modern Life.” You can connect with her on social media @omgal.