Birthdays Remind Us to Celebrate Life

New ways to celebrate wisdom

I was visiting a dear elder recently and mentioned her upcoming birthday. She said, “Please, it is just another day. Don’t make a big deal out of it.” I explained that it was a pretty big deal to me: “I may not reach your age!” She scorned the thought and tried to change the subject. Each year more and more people are reaching centenarian status. Wouldn’t you want to be one of them?

Do you look forward to birthdays? Not just the major ones but each and every one? Or do you prefer to forget about your birthday and hope others will too? I urge you to not let birthdays slip by without notice. Doing so is as if you’re letting life slip by. Why not honor the wisdom of your years?

What’s the matter with birthdays?

Birthdays remind us that we are alive. Is that too challenging? Ashton Applewhite, who authored the book This Chair Rocks, points out how society uses ageism to dwarf and minimize people's enjoyment of aging. Ageism stereotypes people. Society teaches us to minimize elders. Over time, we learn to stereotype and minimize ourselves and downplay our birthdays. Doesn’t this prevent us from celebrating life? Ageism teaches us to live “small,” to avoid the highs (or the lows) in life, and to blur celebrations about life accomplishments. What about acknowledging our wisdom instead?

Birthdays are legitimate and touching celebrations of life; when we attach them to a chronological number it can become complicated. There are so many ways to measure age — biological, social, financial, spiritual — so why do we celebrate chronological age? Because we can! Truth is we honor marriages, graduations, christenings, many rites of passages — and birthdays are one of those. Do we want to let ageism limit our rightful celebrations?


Don't let someone else's opinion of you become your reality.

—Les Brown


Prioritize self and celebrate

Receiving gifts is cool, but gratitude, grace, and good self-care are lasting gifts you can give yourself. Birthdays can be a time to celebrate your uniqueness and claim who you have become during the last year. Consider your birthday as a chance to nurture yourself. It can be a happy time like birthdays used to be when we were children and let our friends celebrate us with a party. Why is it easier to celebrate other people's birthday than to celebrate ourselves? What does it take to feel vibrantly healthy and take better care our ourselves?

There are many steps to ease emotions into a “self-love fest,” and best of all, the choices you create for yourself cost no money! They are practical, require no special equipment, and you probably have done them before but just need a reminder to get them back into a practice.

Birthdays are a good excuse for extra good self-care

When life throws us challenges, we discover the strength to grow. Self-consciousness, awareness, curiosity, can all take us to new places of strength. It is our choice that either limits us or allows new ways of evolving old habits.

Write a number from 0 to 10 next to the suggestions below. Zero means you have no interest and 10 means you have a lot of interest. Consider these as self-care strategies so you can get started on an inspirational path to improve your well-being:

  • Meditate with deep breathing

  • Walk in nature

  • Call a friend

  • Journal your accomplishments

  • Take a swim class

  • Follow a new route when visiting a friend

  • Write a love letter to yourself

  • Try out a new recipe

  • Invite a friend for dinner

  • Other _____________________________


Pick one, two, or three of these self-care suggestions and practice them daily. You will want to continue those activities that feel good. Repeat them for that very reason — because you enjoy the experience. Honor your self-knowledge, support yourself, and let your body be its own guide. Move toward activities that are soul-satisfying, not ritualistic and mindless. Get involved with discerning preferences that help you cherish your wisdom and uniqueness. And when your next birthday comes around, share your extra good self-care with a friend. Celebrate life!