Birthday Blues

Birthday Blues

“Happy Birthday!

How are you celebrating today? Aren’t you excited? What should we do to celebrate?”

I have been asked these questions on every birthday, and more often than usual,  they make me feel overwhelmed. Your birthday marks your existence in this world. The general notion about birthdays (according to most societies and cultures) today is that they are to be celebrated. The expectation from you is to feel excited, happy and experience other such positive emotions. Some people however feel quite the opposite. Birthdays can be a time where some people can also end up feeling...gloomy.

What might make you feel not so happy about your birthday then?

Expectations from self: You might feel this way because you're not meeting your expectations that you set for yourself. For example -  If you are operating on the expectation that you to have a house, car, PhD, be on the top of your career, and (also) travel half of the world by a certain age but only a little of that is met, a reminder of you turning a year older and not having met those expectations might explain the blues around your birthday.

Living in nostalgia: You might be reminiscing about the happy times in the past and comparing those with the present, which might make you end up wanting to go back to the past which is improbable.  

Loneliness: Feeling that you don’t have a support system or even if you do have one, feeling lonely because you can’t share your feelings with them, or that you believe they don’t care enough. 

Expectations from the day: Pressure to make your birthday the happiest day of the year and show other people how excited and happy you are might stop you from feeling truly happy. 

Passage of time: The truth about birthdays is that you are getting older, and sometimes, life can seem ephemeral which might want us to stop the ageing (and the eventual passage of time) which isn’t in your control.

Well, worry not. Let’s break down what you can do about the birthday blues instead.

Awareness: Ask yourself what turning a year older means to you. For some, it might mean more responsibility, expectations from self and other things. Being aware of what you want from yourself and other people might give you more insight into your reasons for feeling gloomy. 

Action: Once you draw awareness about what’s making you feel bummed out, it gives you a chance to act and change something about it to your liking. If you're feeling lonely, you can make the effort to reach out to people and see how that makes you feel. 


Reasoning with the expectations: Expectations come with a lot of pressure; leaving no wiggle room for anything but the feeling of being stuck. Reasoning with them and drawing a realistic view (without minimising both the good and bad of your experiences) might actually help you be kinder to yourself! 


A yearly story of you: Think of it as a recollection of what happened  the past year. List the challenges, moments of resilience, things you did and experienced last year, and the way you felt about all of it. This might  end up giving you perspective on how your life has been and all the ways you’ve grown over the last 365 days!


Meet the Author 

Zahra Diwan, PsychologistZahra is a mental health practitioner with a specialisation in clinical psychology. She has completed her training in Mumbai and London. Zahra is experienced in working with children, adolescents and young adults in various clinical setups. Her research interests lie in adapting therapeutic techniques to individuals with neuro-developmental disorders. She also volunteers for NGOs aimed at social change. She believes addressing both the psychological and social aspects of an individual.

Zahra Diwan, Psychologist 

Back to blog

Leave a comment