As a woman, your forties is when you REALLY start to blossom! These meaningful 40th birthday ideas are about more than celebrating one night – or even one year. They’re about honoring and respecting who you are in your fortieth decade of life.
How will you make your 40th birthday meaningful? This isn’t your typical list of 40th birthday celebration ideas. Here you’ll discover meaningful ways to explore, love, and be yourself as a beautiful, sensual, fulfilled forty year old woman.
When I celebrated my fortieth birthday almost a decade ago, I was looking for meaningful, creative ways to honor my forties. I didn’t just want to have a typical 40th birthday celebration. I knew turning 40 was a big deal, and I wanted to celebrate with gratitude and excitement about my next forty years of life.
I hope my ideas show you how to celebrate and enter into your forties in meaningful ways. I hope you create memories that will bring you a sense of warmth and love for the rest of your life. These tips will help you remember that turning 40 isn’t just about finding the best 40th birthday gift and celebration ideas – though that’s part of it! But, just like a happy marriage isn’t just about the wedding ceremony, turning forty isn’t just about celebrating a great night or event.
In this article, you’ll find a variety of tips and suggestions for celebrating a fortieth birthday in meaningful and joyful ways.
Unforgettable Ideas for Celebrating Your 40th Birthday
This list of 40th birthday celebration ideas isn’t about partying it up or trying to forget that you’re turning forty. Rather, I encourage you to live from your heart and soul, and blossom into the woman you were meant to be!
1. Give yourself the gift you really want
What do you really want out of life? If you could have or do anything as a 40 year old woman, what would you create?
Maybe you need to be part of a good, strong, healthy group of women. Here’s an interesting way to celebrate your 40th birthday from bestselling author Alice Walker:
“Begin a circle of women. Meet regularly. Don’t have an agenda. Get together simply to Be together. Eat, drink, be merry. Dance if you feel like it. Lie about on cushions. Tell stories. Share secrets. Teach each other how to garden, how to build fires. But definitely do not ‘plan’ what you are going to discuss or do. Whatever work needs to be done will be done without your trying to make it happen.”
2. Make an effort to make your forties an unforgettable decade of life
Maybe your 40th birthday means it’s time to celebrate an unexpected stage of freedom. Maybe you’re rebuilding after a loss, divorce, empty nest, unexpected career change or a life-altering health diagnosis. A stressful life event (or two, or three) is a normal, expected part of being a forty year old woman. Give yourself the gift of acceptance and flow. Know that a perfect life doesn’t exist, but a perfectly happy 40 year old woman can exist (if her source of joy, peace, and freedom is from her relationship with God).
For some women, the best 40th birthday idea is to jump into adventurous female friendships. It’s harder to make good friends in your forties; don’t get down on yourself if you don’t have close friends to celebrate your birthday with. Instead, make it a goal to make good friends this year — and for the next forty years of your life. Decide that you won’t get caught without friends on your 41st birthday, and you won’t be celebrating alone.
3. Be open to unusual 40th birthday ideas (that can become unforgettable!)
My 47th birthday celebration was a two-week road trip to California, for a Christian Writer’s Conference. It was a brilliant idea because I met a literary agent and got a book contract to write Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back.
See how unforgettable a simple road trip to a conference can be? This isn’t a 40th birthday celebration idea you can plan. Rather, you have to be open to the possibilities and try new things. Don’t expect to have an unforgettable experience on your 40th birthday or even in your fortieth year. Rather, just be open to being surprised.
4. Pay attention to who and what brings you joy, peace and love
This is the most important gift you can give yourself: notice who fills you up with life and energy, and who drains your spirit and soul. Spend time with women who uplift you and help you be your best self.
These ideas for celebrating your fortieth birthday are more emotional than practical. They involve experiences, not just parties and gifts — though I included gifts because part of turning 40 is knowing when and how to treat yourself well.
I didn’t celebrate my 40th birthday by throwing a big birthday bash, taking an exotic vacation (though I did get a few “Happy 40th Birthday!” hugs in Jamaica last week even though my birthday had passed). Choose ideas and celebrations for your 40th birthday that help you be more kind and gentle with yourself. Look fro ways to make your life more meaningful and beautiful. I turned 40 several years ago and it’s been the best decade of my life. I look forward to celebrating my 50th birthday in less than a year, and I have a feeling it’ll be unforgettable 🙂
5. Treat yourself to a luxurious 40th birthday handbag
Anuschka’s Genuine Leather Hand Painted Bags are one of my favorite 40th birthday gift ideas. A purse that is beautiful and artistic is a creative way to celebrate a milestone in life! Anuschka’s bags and wallets are colorful, hand-painted, durable, and gorgeous.
While I’m not a believer in the idea that possessions and stuff make us happy (they don’t), I do believe God created us to enjoy art, creativity, and beauty. So, I encourage you to celebrate your 40th birthday by getting rid of old things that don’t lift your spirits, and surround yourself with beauty, joy, and light.
On a more serious note, our forties start bringing health issues and concerns. If you’re dealing with a health problem that involves surgery, read 17 Gift Ideas to Help With Healing and Recovery After Surgery.
5. Declutter and surround yourself with simple beauty
Look around your home and work environment. How do you feel about what you see? Are you surrounded with color, beauty, simplicity, and things that make you feel good?
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing isn’t exactly an exciting 40th birthday gift idea, but it is unforgettable. You’ll never be happy or free if you’re buried under a pile of crap. Make it a point to declutter and organize your life so that you can actually be free and happy as a forty year old woman. Getting organized can change your life. And if you’re searching for things to do on your 40th birthday, this will be the gift that gives all year long 🙂
6. Accept what you can’t change about your life
My husband Bruce and I can’t have kids, and I don’t want to try fertility treatments. Neither of us are keen on adoption. Now that I’m almost 50 I’ve accepted that we are a childless couple. I did pray for a miracle and I did want children, but I learned how to let go and surrender to God’s wise and loving will for my life. I’ve accepted and even embraced my life exactly the way it is…and it’s best gift I could ever get on any birthday.
Surrender to your life as it is. Change what you can. This may not be the most exciting 40th birthday celebration or idea, but it will change your life in deep and fulfilling ways! Learn how to love yourself. Better yet, learn how to love God even if you think He let you down. This is the best 40th birthday gift you could give yourself.
7. Heal from past wounds
Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life is one of the best ways to let go of the past and heal from old wounds. This idea isn’t exactly an exciting gift for celebrating your 40th birthday, but it will change your life forever.
Writing in my journal is one of the healthiest things I’ve ever done for myself. I’m more centred spiritually and emotionally, more grounded, and more in touch with God. I really did start to Blossom after I turned 40 – and that’s one of the best 40th birthday celebrations I could ever ask for!
8. Write the story of your life (even though it’s only your 40th birthday!)
Where are you on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being extremely spiritually and emotionally healthy? If you’re struggling with depression, loneliness, or existential angst, consider journaling as a way to learn why you’re so sad and how to get healthy. Learn more about yourself, your life, and your relationship with God.
Get The Mindful Life Journal: Seven Minutes a Day for a Better, More Meaningful Life and a Classic Retro Vintage Leather Diary & Journal – or some other type of journal – and start writing your thoughts, emotions, experiences. This will help you let go of the past and heal from old wounds.
9. Refuse to be your own biggest critic
If you’ve been too busy to breathe for the past few years, here’s an unforgettable 40th birthday idea: start slowing down. Declutter your life. Focus on what really makes you happy, healthy, and whole. Give yourself the gift of freedom and peace. Start spending time with people you love, respect, and admire.
For example, I’m tired of beating myself up for saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, and making mistakes. I’m tired of criticizing myself! What happened yesterday – and 10 years ago, 20 years ago – is done. It’s over. Instead of flagellating myself for my mistakes, I now focus on the freedom and forgiveness I have in Jesus Christ. Instead of wishing certain people were in my life, I’m trust that God put them here for a purpose.
This is one of the best 40th birthday celebrations and gifts you could give yourself: focus on God. He created you, He loves you, and He is always whispering your name. Look up, and meet His gaze. Walking with Jesus is the absolute best and most unforgettable way to celebrate turning forty – even if you’ve been dreading this birthday.
10. Take good care of your 40 year old body
What does your body need? Is your neck sore, your body tired, your muscles flabby? Now is the time to make changes in your physical health. Don’t keep putting it off — yoga is a fantastic, healthy way to get your body long and lean.
I go for an hour-long walk/run most mornings and listen to sermons about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit on various podcasts. My treadmill is for checking email and setting myself up for my workday (I’m a full-time writer, and I walk for 30 or 60 minutes at the beginning of the day).
Get something like Ageless with Kathy Smith: Total Body Turnaround if you need an encouraging external motivation. A regular, healthy exercise routine is essential for a healthy body, mind, and heart. This isn’t exactly an unforgettable way to celebrate your 40th birthday, but it will change how you spend the rest of your life.
11. Try something wild and wonderful on your 40th birthday
Here’s one of the most interesting 40th birthday celebration ideas from a reader:
“I’m going to spend my 40th birthday racing exotic cars in Vegas, then flying to Mexico for a week, lying on the beach, golfing on perfect turf, going to see Mayan ruins, racing dune buggies in the sand, scuba diving, and planning my new business idea,” says Shannon on How to Create Something New in Your Life. “Forty is not old….you’re as young as you feel. IF you wanna go get all responsible for your 40th birthday….go ahead…..or you can embrace the fact that you’ve only lived 1/3 of your adult life and have plenty more to go!”
12. Get out of town – my favorite way to celebrate any birthday!
If you’re celebrating your 40th birthday with a trip, treat yourself to a Compression Packing Cubes Set. This is much better than a gift set of luggage, no matter when your fortieth birthday surprise trip is!
I always try to leave home on my birthday because I love exploring and traveling. If you’re a homebody, don’t push yourself to leave home for an “unforgettable idea for my 40th birthday.” It’ll disappoint you because you need to do what you love to do. But if you haven’t gone on vacation for awhile and you love to travel, then seriously consider going away for your birthday this year.
13. Think about how you want to spend your next 40 birthdays
Now that I’m in my late forties, I’m finally starting to put money away for my retirement. Better late than never! Every time I put $500 or $1,000 into my RRSPs, I visualize my future vacations. I used to think putting money away for retirement was a meaningless chore, but now I see it as taking care of my future self. Same with decluttering and spending my time the way I want. I feel good when I’m surrounded by space and simplicity, when I choose to do things I love, and when I take care of my present and future self.
So, for me the thing to do throughout my forties (birthday or not) is to take good care of my future, my environment, the people I love, and my emotional and physical health. Now that I’m 47, I’m finally learning how to set myself up for success and happiness. Those are my little birthday gifts and tips to myself.
14. Take music lessons – or join a choir
If you’ve always wanted to learn how to play the guitar – or any musical instrument – what better time than now? Or, consider joining a church or community choir. Music will bring joy and laughter into your life, and help you learn not to take yourself so seriously.
I played the flute in high school, and have always wanted to re-learn it. I loved the rehearsals, concerts, and feeling of being part of an orchestra! So I bought myself a flute a few weeks ago, and am working my way through a self-instruction beginners flute book. It feels so good to play, to learn and practice, to hear my musical skills improving. It’s also very healthy to learn to play a musical instrument! For me, joining a band is one of the most meaningful things to do when I turned 40.
15. March to your own drum for your 40th birthday
A few years ago I worked at a social service organization, and I was the oldest counselor there. The rest of my coworkers were in their 20s. They were nice, but I was old enough to be their mother! Some of our work activities and events highlighted how my age.
For example, we had a birthday celebration bowling event, and we were all asked to dress up in Fiesta costumes. I couldn’t think of anything I’d dislike more! I’m a quiet, introverted, introspective writer. The thought of bowling in a Mexican or Fiesta costume with in a loud bowling alley with lots of young people makes me want to crawl under my bed with my dog.
So, my gift to myself was not to go. I was one of the only employees who didn’t attend the birthday celebration, and a wee part of me felt bad. But I just couldn’t do it…and so I allowed myself to march to my own drum. This is my ongoing 40th birthday celebration gift to myself! The idea is that if I can’t show up wholeheartedly, I won’t show up at all. I feel like I’ve earned the right to give myself permission not to attend events that make me feel tired and unhappy.
16. Say “Meeeoowww” and Blossom like a CAT
I recently spent 5 or 6 days wandering around Los Angeles, meowing like a cat. It wasn’t a 40th birthday celebration idea; it was an experiment in acceptance and non-judgment.)
“Meeeoww!” said I out loud every time I caught myself judging a person, place, or thing. For example, some areas of some Hollywood streets are smellier than others. When I found myself wrinkling my nose and wondering how the glamorous men and women of LA could stand the disgusting smell of old urine baked into the sidewalk, I would let a big loud “meeeeoww!” leap from my lips. Even if people were nearby.
Why meow? Because that’s what cats do. And I am becoming more catlike, like a pussy willow Blossoming into a flexible reed that may bend but won’t be broken by the winds of time or happenstance.
And because fighting stuff takes energy. More specifically: trying to fight the past, or stuff I can’t change, or my regrets and mistakes, is draining the positive energy, joy, peace, and freedom from my life.
CAT is Curious Accepting Trusting
When I find myself judging myself or others, I say “meeeeoww” and remind myself that my energy and time is best spent being Curious, Accepting, and Trusting. This isn’t just a 40th birthday celebration idea; it’s how we should live our lives.
Instead of assuming I know everything, I ask myself questions.
“Why are some streets so smelly? Maybe because people and dogs pee outside, and there’s been a drought in LA for 5 years, and they’re not wasting water washing the streets.”
When you find yourself judging yourself or others, ask yourself a few gentle questions. Who is this person you’re criticizing, what do you know about her, where has she been, what has she experienced, and why are you assuming you know better? Are you sure your way is better?
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but satisfaction brought her back.
Be gentle with yourself and the person, place or thing. Let go of your expectations, your “shoulds”, and your assumptions that you know better. Adopt an open mind and heart.
When you find yourself criticizing yourself or others, remind yourself how much time and energy you’re wasting on your own unrealistic and ignorant expectations. Instead of fighting reality (yes, some streets and people and situations are super stinky), just allow the thing to be. It has as much right to exist as you do. Who are you to say something should not be what it is? You may be forty, but you don’t know everything.
Everything Belongs, even if you can’t see why or how. Everything Belongs, even if you didn’t put it there.
There is a reason your life is unfolding this way. There is a reason you chose to take that action, say those words, or go down that street. Trust God that even if you don’t know why something happened, it is there because it is supposed to be.
My 40 year old birthday girl, you don’t have all the answers. Worse – your unmet, unfulfilled expectations are tripping you up and bringing you down. Your expectations are wasting your time and energy. Your “shoulds” are distracting you from the peace, joy, and freedom that being catlike offers.
So, say “meeeoowww” out loud when you beat yourself up for this or judge her for that. Memorize and recite CAT to yourself – and I guarantee you will be surprised at how quickly your judgements and criticisms fade away! Peace and joy will be yours, you precious little kitty cat.
Meeeooowwww and Blossom. Out loud. Boldly.
17. Live for today
Wear a pendant that reminds you to learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow. A visual reminder or symbol to “learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow” is priceless. What better gift could you give yourself, than to live in the moment and cherish every second you have?
I love being forty. The best way to celebrate any birthday in your 40s is to be kind to yourself, surround yourself with beauty and creativity, and stay connected to your heart and soul. What about you – how will you celebrate turning forty? I hope this article has given you a few 40th birthday celebration ideas.
May your 40th birthday bring joyful memories, countless blessings, and peaceful thoughts. May you look up and return the gaze of God, and may your life be filled with the joy and peace that surpasses all understanding.
Need encouragement? Sign up for my weekly "Echoes of Joy" email - it's free, short, and energizing. Like me! 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.