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By Hilary Sheinbaum

Actress Kate Beckinsale knows happiness isn’t serendipitous — it’s something that requires work.

“I think it’s really hard to remain happy. I don’t think we’re supposed to be in a state of happiness all the time,” Beckinsale, star of the "Underworld" movies and "Pearl Harbor", told TODAY, during recent a trip to New York City. “Being content or being OK is hard in this day and age when there is so much information flying at you, so much anxiety and all that.”

The actress, who is also the U.S. brand ambassador for Russell Hobbs, a small domestic appliance brand in the UK, recently took up meditation to enhance her days, at first with skepticism.

“The meditating thing is something I resisted for decades. It used to irritate me when people used to say, ‘you should do that.’ Actually, I’ve found it completely transformative.”

Since incorporating meditation into her daily schedule a few months ago, Beckinsale practices every day for 15 minutes at a time.

“As a culture, we’ve become not used to taking a still pause. It’s so good for you. I’m blown away by how helpful it’s been,” she said.

The 45-year-old doesn’t use a phone app, but she Skypes with an instructor in Los Angeles who helps her practice.

Along with adopting a new practice to benefit her wellbeing, Beckinsale has also removed elements from her life that have hindered her in the past.

“I had terrible anxiety and panic attacks when I was in my early 20s and didn’t for a second correlate to the fact that I was drinking six or seven espressos a day. I’m just not someone who can handle caffeine, it turns out,” she said about abandoning the drink. “That made me feel a little bit better.”

But mindfulness, and cutting out coffee, is the core of what makes the actress feel at peace. Her two cats, Clive, 11, and Willow, 3, are important parts of her life. One is a Persian and the other is a doll face Persian, but the two possess very different personalities.

“Clive is like a person in a cat costume. He looks at you very deeply and is very intelligent and very measured. And Willow is, by far, a maniac.”

“The most important thing you can do for yourself is to have a gang of girlfriends."

Female friendships are incredibly significant and key to her support system. Her inner circle includes her 19-year-old daughter Lily, and her best friend since age 11, Sarah — someone who she laughs with and also calls when difficult things happen.

“The most important thing you can do for yourself is to have a gang of girlfriends. I think that’s how we process things. It’s how we support each other. It’s how we mirror the experience we’re having, Beckinsale said. “I love men. I have a ton of male friends. I have four brothers… but I think it’s really important to have a gang of girls.”

And when it comes to educating herself and others, and especially empowering females, Beckinsale is committed.

“We’re in a weird period of time because I think people are waking up to how difficult it is to be female, in general. There’s a wonderful book by Clementine Ford that I advise every woman, and especially young women, to read called 'Fight Like A Girl',” she said.

"Fight Like A Girl" by Clementine Ford, $15, Amazon

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“It’s really important to be conscious of the things that we’re all subconsciously reacting to all of the time. We’re being told that women don’t have each other’s backs, and that’s all part of the same sexism that we’re all suffering from. I look forward to us waking up more in regards to that stuff.”