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Experience,  How to be alone,  Lifestyle

5 Steps to a Surprisingly Happy Solo Birthday

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Let’s face it, there are very few of us who enjoy the idea of spending our birthdays completely alone. Even the most introverted and solo-happy among us are socially indoctrinated to seek out the company of others for at least part of this milestone day. The birthday blues are real, and we are so used to the idea of birthdays surrounded by other people that it can be hard to imagine spending it by ourselves – let alone enjoying it!

The national lockdown in the UK started just after my birthday in March this year – plans were cancelled, and I spent most of the day alone. Since Covid hit, we’ve had a lot of questions at the Project from people who – through choice or circumstance – are looking ahead to a solo birthday. So as always, we’ve gathered up everyone’s experience & put together our top tips for how to do it as well as you possibly can – including the gritty stuff. Here are five steps to a surprisingly happy solo birthday…

  1. Decide what kind of day you want before you get there – and make a plan

There are no guarantees in life, but ‘just seeing’ how the day goes will drastically reduce the chances of you having a happy solo birthday. Why? Because leaving it up to chance introduces all kinds of variables which you can’t control. If you wake up and realise you don’t feel like spending your birthday working, then it’s probably too late to do anything about it. If you decide you want to stay in and don’t have any food in the house, then you’ll probably have to go out (unless you live on takeaway). If you want to go out and haven’t booked anything, then you might have the opposite problem! All of this will feel frustrating – and if you’re already worried about spending your birthday alone, then this won’t help.

So our advice would be to spend some time beforehand working out what a good solo birthday would look like for you, and making a rough plan for your day will ‘flow’ – i.e.: what you’ll be doing in the morning, the afternoon and the evening. This will be different for everyone – and whatever you decide to do is fine. On my birthday I had a long lie-in, made myself a beautiful brunch, opened my presents (some I’d bought for myself, and some had arrived in the post from others), and went for a long walk in a nearby country park.

You need to be realistic about what you can afford and what it’s possible to do given current Covid restrictions, but ultimately the thing that matters is that you’ve had the conversation with yourself, and made whatever you decide to do a proactive choice. Having a plan will make you feel purposeful and motivated – if you’re in any doubt at all about solo birthdays, then we strongly recommend it.

2. Get organised – including with your chores

I can’t emphasise this one enough – unless you are planning to ignore the day completely (which is in itself a kind of plan…) then the key to a successful solo birthday is getting organised. It’s not enough just to decide what kind of day you want – you need to take steps before the day to make it happen! If you’ve decided that a relaxing day at home is the birthday for you, then organise things so that you don’t need to leave the house on the day. This could involve buying in any food you want to make in advance, perhaps even doing a bit of cooking / baking the day before. If you want to go out, make sure you’ve done the research, planned your route, and/or made reservations!

An extra thing that’s really nice to do is to get all of your chores out of the way in advance so you can have a blissfully chore-free day. Wouldn’t it be nice not to have to worry about laundry or washing up, and to wake up to everything being beautifully clean?

Trust us – it will pay off (and you will feel incredibly smug!) when you wake up with everything already arranged to make your day run smoothly.

3. Treat yourself in the same way you’d treat someone else

Here’s an idea it can take time to get to grips with: you are worth as much time, care and attention as any other person – and you deserve to invest in yourself as though that were the case.

It can feel odd and unfamiliar to put in the same effort for ourselves that we would for someone else– but this is actually one of the secrets to having a happy solo birthday. You’re allowed – in fact, I actively encourage you – to indulge yourself! If you’d buy a gift for someone else, then buy yourself something you’d like for the same or greater value – you can even order it in advance & open it on the day. Make yourself a cup of beautiful coffee. Buy yourself some flowers so that they’re waiting for you as you’re making breakfast. Invest in luxury spa products. Spoil yourself with a gorgeous box of chocolates. Get dressed up and go to the nicest restaurant you can afford. Pay for a premium seat at the cinema. Cook yourself a meal using high quality, freshly bought ingredients.

Build in moments of indulgence throughout the day, spoil yourself as much as you can within the limits of your income, and enjoy every second.

4. Stay mindful & be in the moment

One of the secrets to living well alone is learning to appreciate and enjoy the little things, and it’s no different when it comes to enjoying your solo birthday. Remember that the journey is as important as the destination, and take each moment as it comes! If you’ve allowed yourself a lie-in, luxuriate in the feel of the sheets, in being warm and cosy and allowing yourself time to drift off to sleep again. If you’ve gone out for a walk, stop and really look at what’s around you (perhaps take a camera with you to help). Engage your senses – what can you see, hear, smell, touch, taste? Recording your experiences can really help with this – for example taking a few notes or photographs through the day – and this also gives you a way to look back on your day.

5. Accept it

This might seem like a strange one to have on the list, but for a happy solo birthday – and to be able to do all of the steps above – you need to confront head-on that you are going to be by yourself. There are lots of reasons why you might be spending your birthday alone, and it’s important that you know that there is nothing wrong or shameful in it. But there may well be some emotion that comes with it, especially if this isn’t how you wanted or expected your birthday to be. Preparation will help, as will having some contact with others – whether by phone or Zoom or text or Facebook – or even just making the most of the moments of conversation you have with people you meet throughout the day.

The most powerful thing you can do for yourself, however, is to recognise and work through any shame, anger or disappointment you may be feeling, before you get to the day itself. Journaling can help with this, as can talking it over with someone. It can also help to start and end your day by spending a few moments writing a list of five things you are grateful for. Ultimately, if you go into your day expecting it to be a good one, then it’s far more likely to be!

With a little preparation and the right mindset, solo birthdays can be a wholly different, yet still enjoyable experience. The trick is to make it work for you, and to embrace everything it has to offer.

If you have a solo birthday coming up, what else is on your mind? If you’ve had solo birthdays before, what other advice would you give?

We send out a weekly newsletter every Friday. Just leave your email address with us for the latest news, exclusive updates and offers from the Living Well Alone Project.

One Comment

  • janinebookworm

    I would endorse all your advice above. I always plan something nice for my birthday, whether I’m with people or alone. It might be a special breakfast, a trip to a gallery or the theatre, or a day out with a friend. During lockdown I had coffee in the garden with a friend on my July birthday, and a celebration with my family via Zoom. And definitely no chores!

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