06/27/2013 05:43 EDT | Updated 08/27/2013 05:12 EDT

A Midsummer Check-In on My 2013 Resolutions

Last week's Summer Solstice marked the time of year when the sun reaches its most northern position, resulting in our longest days with the most sunlight we'll experience all year. It's also the halfway mark in our calendar year -- midsummer -- making it a perfect time to check in on those resolutions we made way back in the short, dark days of January.

For some, New Year's resolutions are overly-ambitious goals we make but always break. For me, though, they're more like guiding posts that I establish for myself at the start of the year. I don't expect that I'll be 100% faithful to them (though that's what I aim for), but I do believe they're a sincere reflection of what I strive to be in that moment. As such, checking in with them gives me a chance to pull back from my daily routines and remind myself what was most important to me at the outset of the year.

You can read my original New Year's resolution post here: but I'll reiterate my resolutions below and provide you with a little update on how I've been doing. I'd love to hear how you've been doing too! This isn't about self-judgement or criticism... just a reminder that at this halfway mark, we can strengthen our resolve and reaffirm our own resolutions!

(1) Stay true to my expression

I've been very mindful of this one -- aiming to express myself as honestly and sincerely as I can. Sometimes, we swallow our own words and feelings; giving expression to our true selves can be the hardest thing of all -- (women especially can feel pressure to be "nice" all the time). But this resolution hasn't meant that I've been brutally honest, only that I have sought to find ways to communicate how I really feel.

Part of doing this for me has been spending more time with those people who I feel I can truly BE MYSELF around. These are the people who know, respect and love the real me. They want me to say what I really think and feel instead of giving them some pat response. I think this is a resolution that will be a lifelong one, but it's one I now see the value of bringing to all my key relationships, both personal and professional.

(2) Understand that happiness is a choice

I have to admit, this is one I'm struggling with. I've been so caught up in my busy days that I haven't really felt able to step back and realize that it's all a choice. I think that's the most difficult thing about those periods when we feel stressed and overwhelmed by life -- we lose that sense of ownership over our actions.

This mid-year check in will be my reminder to reclaim that understanding that happiness is a CHOICE and appreciate my happy life. Summer is a great time to force yourself to enjoy those simpler pleasures... like playing with my new puppy by the pool, or putting my favourite flowers (peonies!) by my bedside. These small decisions can add up and create a habit of choosing happiness over stress!

That song from the Rolling Stones also comes to mind right now: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need." I suppose I really do have what I need and what I'm still trying to figure out is my happiness and my balance.

(3) Feel and receive unconditional love

This one is a work-in-progress and, in a way, I don't think this will ever be an "absolute and permanent" state. After all, it's difficult to love unconditionally in those moments when you feel hurt, even if you understand the circumstances... That's simply human nature.

Nevertheless, I've carried this mindfulness into my relationships. I think I'm now quicker to let go of petty things and let myself truly enjoy those moments when I felt deeply loved and loved deeply. The key is to love others for their faults as well as their kindness. Nobody is perfect. And I think this is also something that multiplies... the more you let yourself experience that feeling, the more often it comes. I believe that by the end of the year, I'll feel like this resolution has had the biggest impact of all!

(4) Reframe situations

This resolution is the one I feel like I've had the most success with so far, practicing it every day. When I've been feeling unhappy or agitated with my interactions with others, I've stepped outside my own feelings and tried to reframe the situation from the other person's perspective. I believe this has helped me become more empathetic and understanding of others, but it has also helped me better communicate because my own reactions are honest. In that way, it really dovetails with my first resolution to stay true to my own expression.

So much of our daily frustrations come from that simple sense of not being understood or valued and often it's not really intentional. But as well as improving my ability to communicate in difficult situations, reframing situations has also helped me understand people better and, in that way, love them more deeply because I can relate to them that much more.

(5) Smile everyday

I really do smile every day, and I surround myself by people who make me happy, who make me laugh, even (or especially!) at silly, small things. A deep belly-laugh can really colour a day for you -- those are the days you truly try to remember. Because, as much as resolutions are about "big picture" stuff, they're also about small things that have a big impact.

If I could add one thing to this resolution, it would be to hold on to those smiles for a little longer... to remember that exchange that made me laugh at the end of my stressful day or week... to hold onto it for longer than I hold onto the less positive feelings. I think I do this for the most part, but we all have "those days". So, here's to even more smiles, giggles and laughs in the second half of 2013!

Last week, I wrote a post about feeling overwhelmed: And I think feeling overwhelmed is also about when we get weighed down by the minutiae of our days. Checking in with our New Year resolutions is a chance to let some air back in my days and see the bigger picture, to realize that it's not too late to reaffirm those resolutions that I haven't been doing great with, to continue to improve on those I have and - best of all - to feel some measure of success for reaching the midway mark! Happy Midsummer!

Xo Natasha