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The Birthday Blues: What They Are + 7 Ways to Avoid Them

Birthday blues
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Peggy_Marco

Birthday blues can make the big day feel like the worst day of the year. Here are some suggestions for coping and avoiding negative feelings around your birthday.

Birthday blues are a common phenomenon that happens around or on the day of a person’s birthday. It is a feeling of sadness, depression, or anxiety around this time that can cause:

  • Low mood
  • Low energy 
  • Reluctance to celebrate 
  • Crying 
  • Paranoia 

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), birthday depression or blues is not a recognized condition. Depression symptoms defined by the APA must last at least 2 weeks, and it is usually not a response to a specific situation or day but occurs seemingly without warning or reason. In spite of this, various studies have shown a correlation between the time of a person’s birthday and depressive behavior. In one of the largest population studies of its kind, Hungarian researchers documented the “birthday blues” effect on more than 130,000 people over a period of 30 years. They cited reasons such as feelings of:

  • Hopelessness
  • Failure
  • Nihilism

And a general feeling of not meeting one’s expectations is high on the list of reasons for birthday blues. While some scholars still argue that birthday depression is a myth, if you’ve ever felt that impending doom leading up to your birthday, it’s hard not to believe in its effect. So, to tackle these feelings, we’ve come up with a few ideas to avoid birthday depression

1. Meditation

Meditation can help alleviate sadness and anxiety.
Meditation can help alleviate sadness and anxiety.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / leninscape)

    Meditation has long been an established practice for dealing with depression and anxiety. In the traditional practice of yoga – meditation along with mindful and ethical living has been shown in studies to increase contentment, relieve symptoms of emotional distress, and empower users. To get results from this practice, it is worth beginning in the weeks leading up to your birthday.

    • Start in an upright position on a chair or cushion
    • Inhale deep and steady breaths as you close your eyes

    The research advises silently reciting a mantra of your choice in your mind. You can begin with just 10 – 15 minutes a day, and build up from there. When the day of your birthday comes, try to treat it like any other. Continue with your practice and allow yourself time to engage with your body and mind. This can help to alleviate feelings of birthday blues or depression when done over the month.

    2. Forest Bathing 

    Kick the birthday blues with some forest bathing.
    Kick the birthday blues with some forest bathing.
    (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Picography)

      Forest bathing is a Japanese nature therapy practice, also known as shinrin-yoku. It is the practice of slowly walking through a forest in contemplation of nature. You may rest at any point, remembering to breathe deeply. Focus on your environment and pay attention to your surroundings and senses.

      Around our birthdays, we often get caught up in the stress and anticipation of the big day. Forest bathing is a way to draw our focus outwards and calm our minds. You might consider spending a day in the forest to gain these benefits as your birthday blues arrive. Research has shown that forest bathing has helped people manage their moods and can play an important role in stress prevention. It’s also an eco-friendly way to spend your birthday at peace with nature.

      3. Physical Activity

      Tai chi and soft exercise can help to counter low mood.
      Tai chi and soft exercise can help to counter low mood.
      (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / pcdazero)

        When you’re in a bad mood, physical activity can seem like the last thing on your mind. But time and time again, research tells us exercise is one of the most curative practices for low mood and stress. This is because stress has a physiological component – meaning its effects on the body serve to induce a physical reaction, such as:

        • Heart racing
        • Sweating palms
        • Rapid breathing
        • Tightness around the chest
        • Palpitations 

        One way to combat the apprehension around exercise is to tailor it to your mood. When you’re coping with birthday blues, a mile-long run or sprint at the gym may not be right for you. While intensive cardio has physiological benefits for some mental health conditions, slow mindful exercise can often be just as beneficial. Consider activities such as tai chi, yoga, pilates, and qigong to serve as a distraction and help you beat birthday depression. 

        4. Journaling

        Journaling is a great way to express your feelings.
        Journaling is a great way to express your feelings.
        (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Pexels)

          Journalling is a practice that can take many forms. It is a widely used tool in mental health management for dealing with feelings of depression or anxiety. The content of one’s journal and time spent journalling can vary from person to person. You can use your journal to:

          • Draw
          • Write poetry
          • Brainstorm
          • Expressing gratitude, feelings, and thoughts

          In truth, you can write anything. But the point is to write. Don’t let the birthday blues feelings keep swirling around in your mind. Sometimes, just having them on paper makes them seem less intimidating. 

          5. Form New Connections 

          Joining a new group can be distraction from birthday blues.
          Joining a new group can be distraction from birthday blues.
          (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / StockSnap)

            We are all guilty of occasionally thinking the world rests on our shoulders, or that no one can understand the pain we feel. However, scroll through the internet and you’ll find that so many others suffer birthday blues too – you’re not alone. 

            Forming connections with people who understand what you’re going through can be very therapeutic. This might mean joining a group or meeting new people that we can share our worries with. It can also be about drawing attention away from our problems and connecting with someone else. Why not have a look in your local area to find a new activity or group? You don’t have to share the fact it is your birthday – just engage, try new things, and make new connections. 

            6. Do What You Love

            Stop feeling guilt and do what you love.
            Stop feeling guilt and do what you love.
            (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Olichel)

            If you know your birthday is an especially difficult time of year for you, it’s best to fill the day with things you love. Pour as much positivity into the day as possible. And, do it without guilt. Is there a new game, album, or place you were supposed to try but never got the chance to? Then do it. Eat your favorite food, and listen to that one song you can forget. Birthday blues often stem from feelings of regret, a lack of achievement, or a sense of failure, but failure is always relative. We tend to view it in black and white terms. Just being happy, enjoying yourself, or even relaxing can be an achievement these days. Allow yourself some leeway. Treat yourself as you would a friend and celebrate being alive.

            7. Friends and Family

            It's important to lean on your support network when you feel stressed.
            It’s important to lean on your support network when you feel stressed.
            (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Dimhou)

            Another way to avoid birthday blues is to lean into your support network. Sometimes, the build-up to the day can be just as stressful as the day itself. For this reason, you should be open with friends and family about your feelings. Choose close friends that you can confide in. We often feel disappointed by those who say they are friends, but let us down on the big day. It is better to lean on those we know we can trust, rather than place expectations on people who might let us down.

            You might be better off having a small gathering of only close friends and family. Don’t waste your time and energy with naysayers and fake friends. Focus on the people you love and the ones that love you. Turn off your phone if you need to. This is a day for you to embrace who you are without judgment. Try to be grateful for the time you have with friends and family, instead of dwelling on the relationships you don’t have or need.

            Birthday Blues Takeaways

            Birthday blues can catch us all by surprise. Even when we have lived up to our expectations of the year, we still might feel like something is missing. By practicing one or more of these tips, you can help alleviate these feelings and not let birthday depression get to you. 

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