All-night ragers are so yesteryear. If you’re looking for a birthday celebration that doesn’t involve overindulging in cake or waking up with a major headache, you’re in luck: There are plenty of healthy ways to commemorate another trip around the sun that will leave you feeling refreshed, renewed, and ready to tackle your best year yet.
“The most successful way to have a healthy birthday celebration is to be intentional and design your day in advance, keeping in mind how you want to feel during your birthday and after,” says San Francisco-based health coach, Shawn Casey. “Ask yourself, ‘what would make this a healthy birthday for me?’”
Once you’ve figured that out, choose your next birthday adventure from this list of fun, feel-good ideas:
1. Organize a yoga class for friends.
Massive group dinners are often the go-to birthday plan of choice, but there are better ways to bond that don’t break the bank (or your healthy eating plan). “As fun and delicious as those types of gatherings are, in the end you’re hungover, tired, and carrying around a little less cash,” says Los Angeles-based yoga teacher and wellness blogger Kala MacDonald. “Instead of the usual group sushi night or pizza and beer, why not invest in a gathering that will bring you closer not only to your friends and family, but to yourself? Yoga is a great way to connect, feel healthy, and find grounding.” Plus, it can be adapted to any fitness level.
Investigate local studios and teachers in your area to find a private session for you and your pals to get your namaste on.
2. Run (or swim or bike) for a cause.
Instead of bar hopping, rack up extra steps and do some good by signing up for a charity race or fitness class. Search for local events that raise awareness and funds for causes that are close to your heart. You can even spend the months leading up to your birthday working out with friends or making new ones by attending training sessions and meetups. The time you put in to training will make crossing the finish line feel like even more of a celebration.
3. Rent a dance studio and channel your inner pop star.
Bouncing around to your favorite tunes is probably one of the most natural ways to celebrate a big day, but you don’t have to hit the club to get your groove on. “Dancing is a way to experience the flow state, a way of being in which you’re truly present,” says Bay Area dance and yoga instructor Devi Hadsell. “When your mind is captivated by keeping up with choreography, there’s no space to worry about your to-do list or that silly thing you said earlier this week. It’s also an opportunity to not take yourself so seriously; try frowning while you’re doing a body roll—it’s ridiculous!”
Hadsell teaches group classes, but also creates special choreography sessions for birthdays and special occasions. She says private parties are “a way to get down with your friends without feeling like you need to drink alcohol or stay out super late. Plus, dancing is a killer workout but doesn’t require the same discipline needed to go for a run or hit the gym for a weightlifting sesh. You won’t even realize how much you worked until your legs are jelly the next morning!”
If renting a studio or taking a class isn’t in your budget, you can still get bootylicious on your b-day. “For a lower cost option, simply invite friends over and stream a classic workout video from the ’80s or ’90s, and dress for the occasion,” says Casey. “And don’t forget that a night out dancing also counts!”
4. Pet all the dogs. And cats.
In case you needed one more reason to surround yourself with furry friends, research shows that interacting with animals promotes social interaction between humans and reduces stress and anxiety.” Plus, animals are just super cute.
“Time with animals contributes to mental and physical well-being,” says Jena Valdez, DVM, San Francisco SPCA medical director. So, grab a few pals and hit up your local shelter to hang out with the pups and kitties. Bonus points if you adopt one: Owning a pet is associated with everything from decreased blood pressure and cholesterol to increased opportunities for exercise and socializing.
5. Invest in you time.
Just because it’s your birthday doesn’t mean you have to spend it with friends, family, or anyone, really. “Maybe ‘healthy’ is a ‘treat yo’self’ kind of celebration where you spend a day at the spa, go for a float in a deprivation tank, and indulge in a restorative yoga class,” says Casey. “It might also mean unplugging completely for an entire day or more. Turning off your phone, retreating to nature, and taking a moment to reconnect.” Taking a hike can be a great way to hit your step goal (cue celebration number two!) and clear your mind.
6. Mix up healthy mocktails.
Sipping something festive is always fun, but a hangover isn’t an inevitable consequence of imbibing. Mocktails are an easy way to sneak in some flavor while clinking glasses with friends. “For drinks, I’m all about citrus,” says MacDonald. “I love to add slices of grapefruit and clementine to water, and then a big squeeze of juice too. Grapefruit and lime is a favorite, and sometimes I take it even further and throw in some sliced strawberries, cucumber, and mango. You really can’t go wrong.”
Here’s her favorite recipe for saying cheers (which MacDonald says can be elevated to an adult beverage by adding a moderate serving of alcohol; as long as you drink responsibly):
- 6-8 ounces water
- Juice of half a lime
- Juice of half a grapefruit
- Optional: A sweetener of your choice, like a teaspoon of brown sugar or a few drops of stevia extract
- Garnish with slices of lime and grapefruit
7. Try untraditional treats.
MacDonald is also a fan of forsaking typical birthday calorie bombs for something less traditional but just as fun. “I’d encourage people to think outside of the norm!” she says. “Why have cake when you can put candles in a bowl of guacamole or hummus with a veggie tray? The ritual is still there without all the sugar and empty calories. I myself have requested buffalo dip with celery and carrots in lieu of a birthday cake this year.”
8. Go outside of your comfort zone.
Always dreamt of crossing something off your bucket list? Seize the day and do it now! “Healthy could also mean personal growth and starting your next trip around the sun by stretching yourself,” Casey says. “This might mean doing something that scares you or makes you uncomfortable—anything from jumping out of a plane to sitting with yourself for three days at a meditation retreat.”
“Whatever healthy means for you, there are endless options out there to help you celebrate,” she adds. “Think about what you want and how you want to feel, and don’t worry about the typical conventions of a birthday celebration. It’s your day, do what’s true to you.”
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.