This post may contain affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase something, I will receive a commission with no extra cost to you. For more information, please read my disclosure.
Feeling behind in life is not so much about the age, but about your personal perception of how your life should look like at a certain point. In this post, we’ll talk a bit about birthday depression and how to be happy on a birthday even if you feel way behind.
Whether you are getting 20, 30, 70, or anything in between, I hope you’ll feel a little better on your birthday after following the steps listed below.
And if you want even more encouragement on your special day, check out these unique birthday quotes for self I posted earlier! They might help you get a fresh perspective on your life, as well as inspire you to make the necessary changes to turn your life into a new direction.
With that said, let’s talk about the reason you feel your birthday blues in the first place.
Why you feel sad on your birthday
Even though the main reason for birthday depression is probably unrealistically high expectations, which basically means it’s all in your head, the problem is still very real and common.
You feel sad on your birthday because you think you don’t live up to social standards, you don’t think your life is good enough, and you don’t see a clear way to turn it around.
Studies show that not only many people experience this, but also an upcoming birthday increases the risk of suicide among otherwise healthy people, and it correlates perfectly with age.
Isn’t it crazy to think that social and personal expectations have so much effect on people’s mental health that they can’t handle it and choose to take their own life instead of celebrating their birthday?
Personally, I’m getting 29 next month and I’m already feeling the pressure I’ll likely put myself under for the whole next year. I mean, have you seen all those lists of things to do before you turn thirty? I’m sure there is a similar list for any age you can think of.
More often than not, the only things those lists give you are depression, feeling like a failure, and not feeling good enough.
Well, maybe there are people who skim through those lists, make a checkmark near almost every point, and feel all accomplished, but I’m far from that. And if you are reading this right now, chances are you aren’t that champion either.
As much as the authors of those bucket list ideas probably mean well, they put a heavy weight of expectations upon us all. And for some reason, we choose to go along with it instead of thinking for ourselves and defining our own “good life” standards.
So what are you gonna do?
Stay miserable or choose to do something about it?
If your answer is the latter, here are 10 ways you can be happier on your birthday.
10 ways to be happy on your birthday
1. Decide to be happy no matter what
There is no unified definition of happiness, other than just the feeling of being happy.
Not only it means that happiness is different for every person, but also that you can simply choose to be happy at any moment, without any conditions applied to it.
And if you think you need 50 more things in your life to be happy, you are wrong. Decide to be happy no matter what and enjoy your life today, whether or not you are working on improving it. The fun is in the journey, not just the destination!
Close your eyes and feel the joy wherever you are right now. Your brain doesn’t discriminate between real and imaginary feelings. If it feels happy, it releases all the right hormones around your body that make you feel good even longer.
Do this simple exercise every day, and you’ll surely become a happier person.
2. Accept that you are awesome
So many people think like this: “I hate my birthday because no one cares”.
If you have a healthy self-image, you don’t need recognition of other people to be happy, you can just be. And unless you surround yourself with self-love and daily sources of joy, you’ll always depend on someone else to feel good, which is no way to live life.
I have several lists of positive affirmations that will raise your confidence and help you accept your awesomeness, take your pick!
- 70 I Am Beautiful Affirmations To Tell Yourself Everyday
- 80 Positive Affirmations For Confidence And Self Esteem
- 40 Positive Affirmations To Get Rid Of Self-Doubt For Good
- 66 Affirmations For Sexuality To Feel Confident And Magnetic
And while you’re at it, there is nothing stopping you from manifesting love or friendship into your life. Just look out for the positive people that will inspire you and make you happy instead of toxic friendships that only make you miserable.
3. Make your birthday feel special
If you don’t expect anyone to throw you a surprise party, you can totally take matters in your own hands and make your birthday a great memorable day!
Give yourself a nice gift
What first comes to mind when you are wondering how to enjoy your birthday?
Presents, of course!
But not those random dust collectors and shower gels that people who feel obligated to come with a gift sometimes give you.
The good gifts, the thought-out I-know-you-well kind of gifts that actually make you smile genuinely when you get them.
What is something you would like to get as a gift? Why not get it for yourself as a birthday present?
It’s okay to splurge a little on making yourself happy. It’s your birthday, for goodness’ sake!
You can even start your day by buying yourself some flowers!
Go out for some fun experience
This one may look different depending on where you live and what you like to do.
Personally, I love walking tours, cooking classes, and quest rooms. You might prefer a hike, an interactive museum, or a party night.
I’m sure there is some place in your area where you can go (alone or with a person you like) and have some fun, whether on your birthday itself or close to it.
Look it up! Look at your town through the tourist’s eyes: jump on the attractions-filled websites like GetYourGuide or Viator and see what your options are. Do something you don’t usually do, and don’t forget to enjoy it!
And if you live far from fun, maybe plan a road trip with friends!
Dedicate time to self-care
If a big party is not in the cards for you, why not make your birthday a self-care day?
There is no secret recipe for how to be happy on your birthday alone, you can just be. Remember my first point?
Take a bubble bath, go get a massage, or book a whole spa weekend if you can afford it!
Go out and spend time in nature or stay home and do all your favorite things! It’s up to you. Remember to be kind to yourself, keep your face to the sunshine, and maybe throw a bunch of self-care affirmations in the mix to ensure the right birthday mindset.
4. Review your expectations
If you feel birthday blues, there is a good chance your expectations of yourself aren’t realistic.
Another thing that can contribute is if you have a negative mindset and are too focused on the things you lack, which doesn’t let you see all the good things in your life.
One small failure or setback can easily make you feel like all your achievements are insignificant and not even worth mentioning. But is it really the case?
Oftentimes social expectations can dictate your own, even if they don’t align with your true desires.
I know, getting a “happy birthday” call from your aunt and needing to answer the same old questions about marriage or kids might be daunting, but you shouldn’t let it get to you if that’s not what you want.
Write down all the things you think your life is missing and give that list a critical look. For each item, answer these questions:
- Do I really want this or am I just supposed to want this?
- Do I want it for myself or to make someone else happy?
- How can I make this happen?
You might find that some of the things you thought you need are not your desires but something imposed on you by your circle or culture. Take the time to really listen to yourself and understand what you actually want.
You might even realize that your life is not that bad after all if you just lift the pressure of all those unnecessary expectations off yourself.
5. Stop comparing yourself to others
This is not an easy one, but it might be the most effective way to be happier on your birthday.
Constantly seeing the sunny side of everyone’s life on social media makes you feel less-than because you don’t have it all.
But do you really need it all?
If someone’s profile makes you sad or envious or wakes up the feeling of missing out, just go online and unfollow or mute them. Yes, right now. Because why would you want to make yourself feel like that over and over again? Come on, that’s not healthy.
If that’s your close friend and you are afraid to miss something important in their life, ask yourself why can’t you just be happy for this person when you see their moments of joy? Does it make you a good friend if you are secretly resenting them for making you feel like this?
Social media can be a healthy source of inspiration if you approach it with the right mindset. Use it in your favor to find out what you want from life, and have conversations with people who already achieved that to learn as much as possible from them.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone but yourself. It’s often that we start something new and give up too soon because we can never be as good as the next person. As someone smart once said, “don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20”. You never know how much effort, dedication, and long hours that person put behind the scenes to be able to do that or look like that.
Looking back at the version of you from a year ago, or a few months ago, can give you a clear picture of your progress without external influence. Make sure your goals are measurable so you can really see the progress, and strive to become a better version of yourself instead of someone else’s shade.
6. Talk to someone about your feelings
If you aren’t feeling happy on your birthday, you are likely not in a very good mental place right now.
Keeping your feelings to yourself doesn’t help you process them, and the more they stack up, the more miserable you find yourself feeling.
If there is someone in your life who you know cares enough about you to just listen and not judge, maybe your partner, your mom, or a friend, find a way to have a conversation with them about all the things that are bothering you.
But if you don’t have anyone or they don’t seem to understand what you are going through, it doesn’t mean you have to be alone in this. Sometimes talking to a professional listener is exactly what you need to work through the things that make you feel behind and maybe find a way to turn a new page.
7. Write a list of things you are grateful for
Have you ever made a list of all the things you are grateful for? (Here is mine for inspiration!)
I am asking because I’m sure you don’t appreciate everything you have in life as it deserves it, and you likely take a lot of it for granted.
Otherwise, you wouldn’t feel so sad on your birthday, you’d feel blessed and thankful for all the wonderful things in your life.
So, the next way to be happy on a birthday is to make your own gratitude list! You can start by listing people you love, continue with obvious things like free air and clean water, and then think about little and deep things to be grateful for. Maybe find a quiet place where you won’t be distracted, and open your heart to feel the gratitude.
Tell me in the comments how many things you come up with!
8. Set exciting but realistic yearly goals
Who said you can only make resolutions when it’s New Year?
You have the whole year till your next birthday, so promise yourself a few things that you’ll manage to do till then.
Make sure each goal you choose is measurable, trackable, possible (not for you but in general), and that it excites you enough to light a fire under you and keep you disciplined along the way!
Now, if I suddenly die tomorrow, I want to genuinely think that I had a good run on life, no matter the age. I don’t want to be someone who barely even lived.
I want to enjoy every moment, to make memories, to really live every day of my life instead of just existing and watching the years passing by.
If you feel the same, I’m pretty sure you already have an idea of the life you want for yourself. Like, when you look at someone’s Instagram picture and wish you had exactly that. And if you say you don’t know what you want, I recommend you go watch this 2-minute video by Mel Robbins right now and then come back to setting new goals.
Because you deserve to have all your dreams come true.
9. Do something to make yourself feel good
Read an inspiring book
As an avid reader, of course I couldn’t help but mention a book or two in this post.
Even if you don’t read much, a good inspirational book can help you feel less blues on your birthday, and maybe even empower you to change your life completely.
These are my two recent favorites:
- You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life
- Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be
It doesn’t have to be a self-help book, of course. Snuggling up with my blanket and a feel-good seasonal fiction book always makes me feel better, no matter what happens outside.
Go meet some like-minded people
Go on Facebook and search for nearby events, or jump to meetup.com to see what’s happening in your area. There is always something going on depending on where you live (and online events are still hot, too, so living in the middle of nowhere is no excuse as you obviously have an Internet connection).
You can surely find something that sparks your interest. Whether it’s hiking buddies, a tech talk about a new cool thing in your field, or a book club meeting, there is something for everyone.
Maybe it’s time to crawl out of your shell and find out that like-minded people can actually be fun.
Pick up a new hobby
When you get stuck in your daily routine, it’s very common to feel unhappy: life seems dull and it’s like you are reliving the same day over and over again.
Shake things up a bit by finding a new exciting hobby for yourself!
I usually go to Skillshare for hobby inspiration as it is the best place for creative endeavors. They have so many things I’ve never heard of that I can never run out of new things to try, and I think I have enough classes on my list for the rest of my life.
You can learn how to write music, try dancing in a new style, learn to code, or to illustrate and make your own stickers, and it’s just the tip of the Skillshare iceberg. See for yourself! They have a 7-day trial with access to all courses and after that the subscription honestly costs less than any other subscription I pay for.
10. Write down all your achievements since the last birthday
If you look back at the 365 days since your last birthday and don’t feel particularly proud, it can only mean one of two things: either you have a very short memory, or you don’t have a good tool to track your progress.
Well, alright, if you really didn’t do a-ny-thi-ng at all this whole year and just sat in your mom’s basement playing video games all the 5840 waking hours you had over the year, I apologize and give you permission to completely skip this step.
Otherwise, if you actually take a closer look at your day-to-day achievements and start listing them right now, you might be surprised by the length of that list. I’m sure you don’t give yourself enough credit for the bigger part of it.
At some point, I remember feeling like I completely wasted my summer, but as I went through the pictures on my phone, I realized there were quite a few good moments worth remembering.
Another way I keep track of my day-to-day highlights is with this One Line A Day journal. The idea is to just sum up your day in a couple of sentences and do it daily for five years. It only takes a minute per day to quickly write something down before bed but it gives you so many memories in the long run!
Of course, not all days have something big to write about, and that’s okay. In that case, I just write down a little something that made me smile today. (And if you ever have whole days without smiling, I urge you to read this post of mine on all the things that make me smile, and maybe make your own list as well!)
It’s easy to forget the little things, but they are what life is actually made of. Reading what made your day last year, and the year before that, is a very fun way to track your life’s journey and how you changed over the years.
Final thoughts on being happy on a birthday
These were my 10 ideas on how you can be happier on a birthday! I’m sure if you implement these, they will help you dispel some darkness and turn your birthday blues into some brighter colors.
And hey, happy birthday to you! I wish you a wonderful year full of pleasant surprises and dream-come-true moments!