8 Ways to Celebrate Your Birthday Mindfully

 

As we approach a birthday, anniversary, or long-anticipated event, it can bring about many thoughts and feelings. We might experience happiness and joy, but we can also feel disappointment, regret or sadness if our day, or lives, are not as we wish them to be. 

 

Such milestones can prompt us to look inwardly, to judge ourselves or to make comparisons with others. In doing so, we can prevent ourselves from fully enjoying our day or even cause ourselves and others suffering.

 

So, what can we do to cultivate joy and ensure a more positive experience?

 

Here, we offer eight ways to mindfully support a happy birthday and to help us remember that birthdays are a celebration of the unique gifts each of us brings to the world. 

 

1. Let Go of Expectation 

 

Have you ever not planned something for your birthday?

How does the thought of it make you feel?

 

Perhaps it brings up feelings of discomfort or maybe it’s a refreshing idea.

We might find ourselves planning our birthday weeks or even months in advance, ruminating over what we may or may not do. In doing so, we can give ourselves excessive time to plan every minute detail in our heads, unintentionally setting expectations.

When we set expectations, instead of being able to enjoy each moment for what it is, we can end up lost in thought, worrying that everything will go to plan. We can miss out on what is actually happening, letting our birthday pass by without being fully present. 

For example, if we are planning a party, we might fret about looking our best instead of enjoying the experience of visiting a salon or taking a warm shower in preparation. We might spend time wondering if someone is going to turn up, instead of connecting with those that are already there. 

Consequently, when things turn out different to how we expect -- as they usually do -- we can be left feeling disappointed.

Instead of planning, we can consider if a level of uncertainty might help to keep our minds open.

 

Can not-planning allow us the freedom to choose what we want to do to suit our needs nearer the time, or even on the day? 

 

Perhaps in choosing not to envisage every last detail we can relieve pressure around preconceived ideas about what a birthday ‘should’ or ‘should not’ look like. As we let go of our own expectations, we can also avoid complying with the expectations of others. 

When we make space to enjoy the anticipation of not-knowing what will happen on our special day, we can let it unfold with curiosity and wonder. 

 

2. Nourish Yourself

If there was only one day in the year to feel nourished, birthdays are likely to be up there. 

If you wake up on your birthday and want to curl up in a blanket with a good book and a cup of coffee, then it’s your birthday and no one is there to judge you, including yourself. If you want to party until 4am for your 80th, then it’s also your birthday!

When we shift our awareness to observing how we feel, we can more easily accept what is and respond to meet our needs, as opposed to what the world around us might dictate. 

Regardless of the day, it’s important we regularly set time aside to think about what will nourish us, so that we can learn to restore, reset and reconnect with the world around us. A birthday can provide a good reminder to set such intentions as you move forward into a new year.  

 

3. Choose Gratitude 

Instead of ruminating over what a birthday might mean, we can focus on being grateful for what we have as we reach each milestone. We can pause and notice everything around us –- almost like taking a polaroid picture in our head. 

We might choose to start or end our day by writing a list of things we are grateful for from last year. This might be experiences, people, objects, or the things we might otherwise take for granted, such as our health and mindfulness practice. 

Gratitude can help us to see the world the way it is and let go of the imagined version of our day or the way we might otherwise feel we ‘should’ be celebrating. In directing our attention to gratitude, we can better cultivate positive mind states.

 

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4. Read (or Start) a Mindful Journal

As we write down what we are grateful for on our birthday, we might also take a moment to look back on our journal and the year that has passed. 

We can take note of what we have learnt about ourselves in a compassionate way. We can celebrate the challenges we have overcome, the experiences we have been a part of and the unexpected surprises that might have taught us something along the way. 

Whilst mindfulness is about the present moment, it can be helpful to reflect on the past from time to time to support us in being more mindful and to help set positive intentions for the future. 

You might realise that the event that you were so dreading turned out to be enjoyable. Or that the noise the washing machine was making was not a sign that it was broken at all. It might be that thoughts about where we were heading at the start of the year could have turned out to be completely unfounded. This can help us to move forward with greater knowledge and intuition. 

If you haven’t started one, you might treat yourself to a shiny new journal -- it’s your birthday after all!  

 

5. Invite a Beginner's Mind

When we are children, we celebrate birthdays -- both our own and that of others -- with a pure excitement that can be lost or hidden under layers of busyness or stress as we grow up. Rather than being a day to catch up with friends, eat cake and play pass the parcel, it can feel like a chore. 

When we invite a beginner's mind to our birthday, we forget about making our day ‘perfect’ and centre in on the here and now. We celebrate as if we were a kid again, reverting to a childhood sense of curiosity and joy.  

For example, we can open a gift with excitement, rather than expectation or worry. We can focus on the cake in front of us, rather than how it will look on Instagram. If we want to, we can even play musical bumps, mindfully listening for the music to stop without thinking about where we might fall! 

 

6. Mindful Gift Giving

 

Have you ever thought about giving a gift to someone else on your birthday? 

 

It might be a small token of gratitude for someone that has supported us over the course of the year or a donation to a charity that we admire. 

A mindful gift does not need to be expensive; it can be spending time with someone, writing a thoughtful card to acknowledge your appreciation, or simply thanking someone out loud. 

Mindful giving can strengthen the connections with those around us and help to cultivate joy for both the recipient and ourselves.

 

7. Before You Blow Out the Candle…

If you have a busy schedule planned, why not start it with a simple candle meditation, focusing on the flame and helping to move into the day with clarity and inner calm. 

Alternatively, if you’ve chosen to have a cake to mark the occasion, you could use the candle as a cue to look around you before you blow it out. Perhaps notice who is there to celebrate with you, tapping into your senses and how you feel in the moment.  

And once the candles have been blown out...  

 

8. Have Your Cake (Or Not)

Finally, many of us will celebrate with an edible (or drinkable) treat on our birthday. Why not take a moment to really savour the moment and enjoy that special something in detail with some mindful eating?  

A birthday cake, for example, might generate eye hunger -- one of the seven types of hunger -- so why not feast your eyes on the detail of the icing or the different layers before savoring each bite, noticing the textures and flavours. In doing so, we can really appreciate it and the effort that has gone into making it. 

And if you don’t feel like a huge slice of cake… then eat what you want -- listen to your body and save the cake for another time if that’s what it’s telling you. Put a candle in an avocado, a piece of sushi or a slice of cheese. Tune in and give yourself the birthday presence you’re truly craving.

Happy birthday!

 

Meditation

Candle Meditation | 6-Minutes

 

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