With her career expanding in new directions, a daily ritual that keeps her centered, and a tight family bond, Katie Holmes is feeling happy, strong, and psyched for the future.

By Pamela O'Brien

Katie Holmes is in a really good place. "I enjoy life, and I love adventure," says the actor, 41, who describes herself as an optimist. "That's the thing I like best about myself. I like to meet people and experience lots of things. I'm always up for new challenges." (Related: The Most Challenging Workout Katie Holmes Has Ever Done)

Currently fueling her passions are the projects she's helping bring to life and the people in her circle. First, there's her work behind the camera: Katie is directing her second film, and she's loving every minute of it. "I enjoy the collaboration of everyone on set, putting a story together, and telling it through my own lens. That makes me feel great. When I'm creating, I'm happy."

And then there's her acting career. This month she stars in the horror-thriller Brahms: The Boy II, which hits theaters December 6. Katie, who says she is not usually a fan of scary films, was eager to be part of this one. "I play a woman who is terrified that an evil doll is taking over her child. Doesn't every parent worry that an influence will take over their child? To me, it's a metaphor for that."

Her favorite role, of course, is being mom to 13-year-old Suri, her daughter with Tom Cruise. "I feel very blessed to have such a special daughter," Katie says. "Being her mom is absolutely the greatest gift and privilege."

We caught up with Katie shortly after our photo shoot (to which she brought her own mom, by the way), and she shared with us how she keeps her upbeat attitude strong, no matter what.

Alexei Hay

Exercise Is My Go-To

"I exercise four times a week. Variety is key, or I get bored. I like Spinning, boxing, and yoga, and sometimes I'll take a dance class. I have my own Spin bike, so I can do it at home when I have to get up really early; otherwise I go to FlywheelSports. I got into boxing a couple of years ago, and now I take classes at Rumble. They play great music, and it's so fun. It targets your upper body, which is good because I can forget to do that." (Related: The Surprising Way Boxing Can Change Your Life)

"Sometimes I work out with my daughter. It just depends on the day. We have our routines, and occasionally they overlap. But I don't force her to work out with me because I know that's lame."

It's Ok to Be a Work In Progress

"Confidence is something I've had to grow into. You can be confi­dent in certain areas of your life, but then you have to work on other areas. The more focused I am about achieving a goal, the more my confidence goes up, because then I'm mentally organized about what I want to do. If I'm not feeling sure about something, I sit down and work on exactly what it is I want to accomplish and all the different ways I can achieve it. When I break a goal down into steps, it seems possible. That helps me look at it from more of a rational perspective instead of, 'Oh my God, I can't do it.'"

Alexei Hay

I Make Myself a Priority

"I'm a big believer in self-care. It's better for everybody if you're taking care of yourself. Those moments are really worth it. I like to get massages. I also have a favorite daily ritual: I take 20 minutes in the morning to write down a list of the things I'm grateful for and listen to calming music. It's kind of a meditation, and I give myself that time to just enjoy. It sets a good tone for my day." (Related: Gratitude Journals That'll Help You Appreciate the Little Things)

Sometimes You Need a Sundae

"I try to have a balanced approach to food. I focus on putting nutritious things into my body, but I don't obsess over it. If I'm going out to dinner with friends, I enjoy a nice meal. If there's junk food, I have it and then just eat healthier the next day. My favorite food is nachos. I love dessert too—cakes, candy. And sometimes a good hot fudge sundae goes a long way."

"Overall, though, I'm pretty healthy. Usually I make a smoothie in the morning with greens and fruit. And I eat a lot of salads and fish. I try not to have too many carbs, like pasta and bread, because they make me so sleepy. But I love food, and I love cooking. I'm not a great cook, but I enjoy it. I feel really good if I make a recipe well because it can get a little confusing at times. You're on the phone or you get distracted, and then you can't remember if you put that one ingredient in. Did I add salt? Or was it sugar?"

Alexei Hay

Helping Others Keeps Me Grounded

"Volunteering is something I incorporate into my life. I'm mindful of being part of my community, and I go to homeless shelters to help out. I also recently traveled to a refugee camp in Greece with Artolution [a community-based public art organization that seeks social change through collaborative art making], and that was very eye-opening. There are so many refugees all over the world, and it's incredible to see the strength of people who leave such dire circumstances to start over someplace else. That's work that I'm continuing to learn about and be involved with." (See: Why You Should Consider Booking a Fitness-Meets-Volunteering Trip)

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