It's not what you might expect. 

By Priyanka Aribindi
Updated June 13, 2017
Birthday Cake With Candle
Credit: RuthBlack/Getty Images

I’ve always treated my birthday like a second shot at New Years—and not just for the excuse to celebrate. Birthdays are another opportunity to start fresh, make resolution, and assess what’s to come in the next year. Whether you fully embrace the occasion, or are happy to let it pass without a lot of fanfare, the day itself marks another year you’ve lived through, and provides a natural time to reflect before you move forward.

With such an opportunity for change, it’s nice to think about what (and who) has remained constant in your life, too. While I’ve never said no to a present or a piece or two of cake, my favorite thing about birthdays is the fact that they bring my favorite people together in one place. Whether it’s with a big group dinner or a few people hanging out on the couch with takeout, there’s one tradition I come back to time after time to start my next year on the right foot.

Usually once everyone has their food and phones have been (mostly) put down—would it be a millennial celebration without someone Snapchatting the cake?—I like to take a minute to quiet the table, almost like a toast. But instead of the usual cheers to the birthday girl or the year ahead, I prefer to turn it around and acknowledge the people I’ve chosen to celebrate with and why they’re so special to me.

To me, birthdays give you a chance to show your appreciation for the things you don’t always compliment, but always notice—like one friend’s relentless determination, or another’s constant career support—and acknowledging the admirable qualities you’re surrounded by can help you make your own resolutions for the year ahead.

Even if you’re not with your loved ones in person on your big day, gratitude is just as easily shown over the phone or written in a letter or email, and sharing yours not only lets your loved ones know how much you value them, but also helps you start your new year feeling your best.