Are you dreading your birthday this year? Maybe you broke up with someone you love and you’re wondering how to survive the heartache. Having a happy birthday after a breakup seems impossible….but what if you can be happier on your birthday?
The first thing you need to know is that you are not alone. “My boyfriend broke up with me because he said he needs time and space,” says Jody on Surviving Your Birthday After Your Relationship Ends. “He wanted to focus on his work, his son and making a better relationship with his ex-wife. Our breakup happened three weeks ago and my birthday is this weekend. I didn’t expect him to break up with me because we were happy together. How could his feelings change so fast? I love him so much! How will I get over him? And it’s my birthday, I never thought I’d be celebrating alone. How can I have a happy birthday after a breakup? I’ll never be happy again. I asked him for a second chance but he said NO! What can I do?”
Your heart needs time to heal after a relationship ends. You need time to grieve the breakup and accept that your boyfriend can’t love you the way you want to be loved. But this doesn’t mean you can’t have a happy (or happier) birthday after a breakup! It just means your birthday may not turn out the way you expected…and that’s okay. In fact, your birthday may turn out even better than you could ever imagine or plan.
On How to Be Happy Alone on Your Birthday I describe how I spent my 34th birthday. I was alone at a neighborhood pub, sitting at the bar, feeling sorry for myself. After a glass of wine, I told the bartender and the guy sitting a couple stools down that it was my birthday…and they not only bought me drinks and appetizers, they sang “Happy Birthday”! Several times.
That evening turned out to be one of my happiest birthdays. A few more people sat at the bar that night; they were friendly, talkative, and happy to share memories of their previous birthdays. They even talked about their saddest, most difficult and loneliest birthdays — as well as how they spent birthdays after breakups, divorces, and deaths. Just listening to their stories made me feel less alone. I started the evening wondering how to be happy alone on my birthday, and went home surprised by the joy and comfort of strangers.
Celebrating your birthday alone is hard…and surviving your first birthday after a breakup is even worse. But you’ve come to the right place! I found an article called “10 Ways to Get Happier” in an ancient Best Health magazine. Some of the tips are a little ho-hum (set personal goals and go after them) but others are awesome. Here I share the best tips for getting happier — and they’ll help you find happiness on your birthday after you broke up with someone you love (or were broken up with).
How to Be Happier on Your Birthday After a Breakup
I was also inspired to write this article by a reader’s comment on 17 Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Your 40th Birthday. Her husband died a few weeks ago. Can you imagine celebrating your 40th birthday as a widow? It’d be a huge struggle to have a happy birthday…which leads us right into the first tip.
1. Instead of trying to be happy, allow yourself to get a little happier
“Why do we sometimes feel so disappointed at our own birthday party?” asked journalist Lesley Young in her “getting happier” article. “Research shows that putting too much stock in the pursuit of happiness for its own sake can backfire. The trouble is the expectation that, for example, the party itself will make us happy; that leads to too much focus on the end point versus simply engaging in the activities that make us happy.”
Your expectations affect how happy you are — whether or not you’re coping with a breakup. Even if you plan a huge celebration, invite all your friends and expect your birthday to make you happy (and even if your ex-boyfriend shows up and begs you to get back together with him), you’ll wind up feeling more alone. Why? Because you’re trying too hard to be happy. Instead of sinking into depression because it’s your birthday and your boyfriend broke up with you, simply accept this day for what it is.
2. Try a different way to get happier
The first time I ever went to a pub alone was on my birthday, and it turned out way better than I expected. I didn’t expect anything, in fact! I thought I’d have a glass of wine, watch all the happy people in the bar, and go home early. I had no idea that I was actually learning how to get happier when I felt alone. I had no idea that telling strangers it was my birthday and I wasn’t very happy would become one of my most comforting memories. And I certainly had no idea I’d be given drinks and appetizers as birthday gifts!
Instead of trying to be happy on your birthday — or trying to get over the breakup — take yourself on an adventure. Maybe you’ll try aerial yoga or improv classes. Maybe you’ll call the friend on whose should you’ve been crying, and offer to buy her dinner or dessert at the new restaurant in town. Maybe you’ll volunteer to pick up garbage in the park or visit seniors at the lodge. Trying different ways to be happy on your birthday after a breakup is an adventure that you can actually embrace and enjoy! If, that is, you can dig up your dusty old sense of adventure and joy.
3. Forget “retail therapy” — especially on your birthday after a breakup
Last week I wrote 40th Birthday Gift Ideas That Will Surprise and Delight Her I thought it’d be boring and difficult because I hate shopping. Plus, I was writing for husbands and boyfriends who wanted to buy birthday presents for their wives and girlfriends. Yawn. But it turned out that writing that blog post actually made me happy! I imagined I was a boyfriend who just wants to give his girlfriend a happy birthday. Creating a list of birthday gifts for women I don’t know may not seem like a good way to get happier, but it made me feel great. I didn’t have to spend money buying things; I just enjoyed the feeling of giving someone birthday gifts that would make her happy. Writing this makes me wonder if I should research a list of birthday gifts to give someone after a breakup…hmmm…that would make a lot of people happy, I bet!
Back to you and getting happier on your birthday after a breakup: don’t fall into the retail therapy trap. Buying yourself gifts won’t make you happy. “Material possessions cannot deliver on their promise to make us happy,” says researcher and professor of marketing James Roberts. “As human beings, it’s how we feel about ourselves, our relationships with others and our involvement in the larger community that brings happiness and contentment.” In fact, material possessions can actually make us feel worse about ourselves. We buy things we think will make us happy — and we are happy for a few minutes, hours, or days. Then we settle back into the mood we were always in, whether it’s depression after a breakup or bitterness after a divorce. Another hit of retail therapy doesn’t make us happier. It just keeps us addicted to shopping.
4. Catch yourself sinking into the pain of the breakup
The more you think about the breakup and how unhappy you are, the unhappier you’ll be. You prolong the pain by dwelling on how your relationship ended, why your boyfriend left you, what you regret saying or not saying. Unhappy people focus on negative things. Even trying to stop negative thinking after a breakup backfires because it keeps you in the heartache. If you try to have a happy birthday you’ll fail because you’re focusing on the wrong thing.
Happy people, on the other hand, dwell on thoughts and feelings that make them feel good. They notice when they’re sinking into negativity or pain, and they choose to think happier thoughts. It really is as simple as that — especially when you’re facing a birthday after a breakup. For example, I’ve celebrating several holidays alone. When I start feeling sorry for myself I deliberately recall the birthday I spent in the neighborhood pub. That birthday started out bad, and turned out to be one of my happiest! I feel good when I remember it, so I think about it when I feel unhappy. Instead of focusing on the pain of losing someone you love (and breakups are hard, there is no doubt), choose to remember times you were happily surprised. Linger in the surprise and joy.
5. Don’t underestimate your ability to bounce back after a breakup
“We find our way to happiness even when things aren’t working out the way we want,” writes Lesley Young in her article on getting happier. “Research shows that people tend to get over negative events much faster than they expect. The theory is that we have an emotional immune system—much like our physiological one—that fends off negative emotions.”
If you’re having trouble bouncing back, read How to Let Go of Someone You Love: Powerful Secrets (and Practical Tips!) for Healing Your Heart After a Breakup. It’s an ebook, immediately available, and will help you move into a happier season of life.
After a breakup — especially when you’re facing a birthday — how do you boost your emotional immune system? By trying different things and finding what works for you! The timing is perfect: learning how to be happier on your birthday after a breakup is the best gift you’ll ever get. If you can learn how to happily navigate a special day when it’s not what you hoped for, you can enjoy life almost anytime. Know that you will bounce back from this breakup quicker than you think…and you might even be happier than ever.
6. Know that this, too, will pass
You’ve dealt with all sorts of setbacks, disappointments, and losses in your life. You survived rejection, abandonment, even betrayal. You lived through disappointing test results, disastrous birthdays and devastating breakups. Take a moment to remember the losses you’ve dealt with, survived, and lived through! You got through those problems — and you may even be wiser, more compassionate and kinder because of them. You got through those painful parts of your life, and you will get through this too. In fact, next year you’ll look back and chuckle at how earnest you were. “I can’t believe I was looking for tips on how to be happy on my birthday after breaking up with… and now I can’t even remember his name!”
It also helps to pay attention to the activities that make you feel unhappier. For example, I often feel unhappy and lonely when I surf Facebook. All the happy people, doing all those happy things and having happy families — not to mention happy birthdays! None of them are suffering from a breakup. I always feel more alone after a stint on Facebook. Notice how you feel when you do your daily activities. Do they help you get happier, or make you unhappy? Do what makes you happy.
7. Believe that you matter more than you know
In What to Remember When You Feel Like No One Cares I wrote about the moment I realized that I matter to people more than I realize. I was at a friend’s for dinner; I told her that I want to move to a new city. Vancouver is beautiful, but it’s expensive and crowded. I want to live more simply and quietly. My friend said I’d be missed. I waved her away, saying I actually haven’t connected with many people at all. She disagreed, saying I don’t know how much I’ll be missed by my friends and community.
It’s the same for you: you matter more than you know. Right now you feel lonely because of the breakup and your birthday. You thought you’d be happy…but you’re not. Remember that you matter more than you realize! I wrote this article for you. It wasn’t an accident that you found my blog, or that you’re searching for ways to have a happy birthday after a breakup. You’re here — not just on my blog, but on earth — because God put you here. He created you, loves you, and has a purpose for your life.
How are you doing? Feel free to share your thoughts and story below…it may help to write about your birthday, the breakup, and how you feel.
Is your relationship in trouble? Get 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage from relationship coach Mort Fertel. It's free and helpful, no strings attached.
Need encouragement? Sign up for my weekly "Echoes of Joy" email - it's free, short, and energizing. Like me!