Do you get sad on your birthday? Does the thought of cake, cards, and celebration bring you down instead of cheering you up? Sounds like you have birthday depression.
Birthday depression, also called birthday sadness or birthday blues, is feeling sad on and around your birthday. You may dread the day coming up and avoid reminding others about it.
You may feel frustrated or wrong for being sad on an occasion that should be joyful. You may feel as though you’re alone in the anti-birthday sentiment.
As you’ll see in this article, feeling sad on your birthday is a common feeling. Every month, about 700 people are searching the term online — and that doesn’t count the searches for “birthday sadness” and “birthday blues.”
We are going to look at birthday depression closely, understanding what it is and why it happens. Then, we’ll offer four tips on how you can get over your birthday blues and experience some birthday highs.
Why Do You Feel Sad on Your Birthday?
The day you are born holds a special place in Western culture. Birthdays are heavily marked, sometimes with lavish parties and expensive gifts. Birthday parties are common social events from the time you turn one year old. But why is it so?
After all, birthdays weren’t always such a big deal. Only in 12th century Roman culture did birthday celebrations become common for men and women in the Western tradition. In some cultures and traditions, birthdays are not celebrated. For instance, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays and consider it sinful.
No one can know for sure why birthdays are so important, but it may have to do with the weight that comes with age. Until recently, aging was considered a positive thing. With age comes wisdom, experience, and respect from those around you.
Pre-modern illiterate societies highly valued their aging citizens. Because of the lack of written language, the elderly were the repositories of knowledge. Without blogs or self-help books, the elderly were the best ones to turn to for life advice. Celebrating birthdays made a lot of sense.
But as societies developed and industrialization moved forward, the value of age declined. As health technologies improved, elderly people, who were once scarce, became copious. Information technology meant that older professions lost value and new professions, occupied by the younger generation of the workforce, were better paid and those workers better valued.
All of these elements conspired to result in ageism — older people are often discriminated against in social and work settings today. The stress of facing prejudice can make birthdays a source of dread.
Because birthdays are such marked events, they may also come with a variety of high expectations, emotions, and memories.
For instance, social anxiety may start to bubble up. You may believe that no one likes you and no one will wish you a happy birthday. You may avoid having a celebration in the fear that no one will attend. You are probably conditioned to want to be acknowledged by loved ones on your birthday, and the possibility that it may not happen can cause you to be very sad.
Birthdays are also an opportunity to take stock of your life up until that point. You may find that your life looks different than what you imagined when you were younger. The reckoning that comes with birthdays can make the event melancholy if you are not up to your own or others’ standards.
What Does Birthday Depression Feel Like?
The birthday blues may differ from person to person, but here’s a list of things you might be feeling around your big day:
- Fear and anxiety about the day approaching
- Sadness and feelings of wanting to cry
- Hesitating to reveal your birthday to anyone
- Painful recollections of past birthdays
- Low energy on or around your birthday
- Feelings of regret for past events or goals left unaccomplished
- Struggling with self-confidence and self-esteem
These feelings may spring up on their own or could be triggered by reminders of your upcoming birthday from your loved ones or social media.
The actual day of your birthday can be tough. If you don’t take steps, your mental health that day can take a beating, as all of the negativity surrounding the event comes crashing down.
The good news is that you don’t need to feel sad about your birthday. Here are four ways to make this year’s birthday better than you imagined.
How to Beat the Birthday Blues
There are many things you can do to feel better about your birthday. Keep in mind that dealing with your birthday blues could be a substitute to dealing with bigger issues of anxiety in your life. View the following suggestions not just as a ways of treating your birthday sadness, but as improving your overall quality of life.
1. Be Present
Birthdays may have you looking at the past or into the future. On your birthday, make a point to be present in the current moment.
Pay attention to your direct environment, your body, and your breath. Consider meditating soon after you wake up on your birthday to bring your mind into the current moment. The point is not whether your regrets about the past and your anxieties about the future are valid. The point is that you cannot change the past and you have limited control over the future. Don’t get lost in them on your birthday.
2. List Things You Are Grateful For
You may be worrying about getting older or having apprehensions about all of the things you don’t have and didn’t do. But when did you last spend time appreciating what you do have?
What about a roof over your head or the ability to read this blog post over an internet connect? How about the fact that you’ve survived to see another year? These things may seem small, but they aren’t. The reality is that there are millions of people do not have access to these basic things.
We don’t mean to minimize your birthday depression — but don’t minimize your birthday blessings.
Take a moment to physically list the things you are happy about. This is scientifically proven to help you feel happier.
3. Reach Out
Even though you may be denying it, you are conditioned to want validation and love on your birthday. It’s important that you take steps to make that happen. Reaching out doesn’t mean having a big birthday party, or a birthday party at all. It just means reaching out to close friends to get support during a day that is hard for you.
If you are feeling sad that no one wished you a happy birthday, reach out to your friends and let them know. Don’t take it personally that people don’t reach out first. Life is very busy and everyone is dealing with anxieties and problems of their own. They will be appreciative of the reminder and will be happy to have had the chance to wish you a happy birthday.
Turn the exercise of telling people it’s your birthday as an opportunity to catch up with loved ones. You can say something like, “It’s my birthday, so I’m making phone calls to everyone to say hello!”
Sound too overwhelming? Contact just one person who you trust and love and tell them it’s your birthday. You may enjoy being wished a happy birthday and spending some time with them more than you expected.
4. Embrace Aging
If getting older is driving your birthday depression, take this birthday opportunity to learn to embrace your age in a positive and constructive way. Read a book on ageism — we highly recommend “This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism.” The book details all of the hidden and unacknowledged positives of getting older and dispels many of the prejudices we have against older people.
A big takeaway from the book is that age is just a number. There is no dividing line between old and young: There are either younger people or older people. There isn’t an age limit to any experience or milestone that you wish to have. Certain expectations related to age are a result of negative social conditioning and do not match up with the scientific reality of what it means to age. Age is a blessing and not everyone gets to see it.
Blow out the Candles on Birthday Depression
Birthday blues are common and completely understandable. We live in a stressful society where older people are increasingly marginalized. You may feel pressure to reach certain standards and a birthday can act as a reminder of all of the things you haven’t done.
But who decided what life needs to look like at your age? Who said that you shouldn’t call your friends and remind them it’s your birthday? It’s your birthday and you can cry if you want to!
If you are looking for a way to treat yourself on your birthday, why not considering gifting yourself the Spire Stone? Spire is a device that tracks your anxiety levels and sends you helpful notifications when your body is entering a state of stress. You can stop stress before it happens and go through your daily life more centred, calm, and happy. Order it before your birthday, and you may find that your birthday blues all but disappear.
With that said, we want to wish you a truly happy birthday.