Alan Cumming on How Meditation, Kindness Has Helped Him Find Happiness

Actor and activist sat down with Dan Harris for his "10% Happier" podcast.

— -- Alan Cumming wears many hats. He’s an award-winning Broadway actor, best known for his role in "Cabaret," and became an on-screen name in TV’s "The Good Wife" and as Nightcrawler in “X-Men 2."

On top of his acting career, Cumming is also a New York Times best-selling author, director, comedian and activist.

When he sat down with ABC News’ Dan Harris for the "10% Happier" podcast, he had a different, more literal, hat on –- a bright red baseball cap that had "Make America Gay Again" written in big white letters.

Cumming spoke about his meditation practice, his love of Crocs shoes and his new book out this month called, “You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams: My Life in Stories and Pictures,” a collections of adventures and Cumming’s personal photographs.

Watch the full interview in the video player and download the "10% Happier" podcast on iTunes, Google Play Music and TuneIn.

Cumming said his busy schedule makes it hard for him to keep up a regular routine with meditation. But when he does practice, he said he sits in a low chair with his hands on his knees and his eyes closed.

"I breathe," he said. "I start to think about my breathing."

Meditation was something Cumming said he started doing on his own as a way to take a few moments to "block everything out for a while." Over time, he said, it’s helped him to "respond, not react," to situations –- a core lesson in mindfulness.

"You know sometimes when you think, 'I could get really stressed out about this or people are really annoying me,'" Cumming said. "It makes such sense ... [to] take a step back and think, 'Hmm, what’s the best situation here? What’s the best way to deal with this?' and then make a qualified and studied decision."

"I’ve noticed it with other people, like people riding me," he added. "I’ll say, 'OK, don’t reply to that email right now. Let’s just wait a minute. Let’s rest and see how we feel after five minutes.’”

Growing up in Scotland, Cumming said he had a tumultuous childhood and a strenuous relationship with his late father, which he detailed in his 2014 New York Times best-selling memoir, "Not My Father’s Son." He said living in a tense environment from an early age helped him learn how to deal with "difficult people," and as an adult, he learned how to feel comfortable in his own skin.

"[I made] a decision to not allow shame into my life," Cumming said. "It wasn’t easy and there were lots of hiccups along the way."

He made the conscious choice to start saying, "'I’m good enough, I’m fine. It wasn’t me and I’m going to be OK. And I’m going to move forward and not let this baggage from my past dictate my present or my future."

Meditation, he said, was a help in making that happen. "I think I kind of like the way that meditation works," he said. "I mesmerized myself, or changed myself into just thinking, 'No.'"

Cumming said his childhood was one of the reasons he spends so much time focusing on kindness and trying to being kind to others. He believes there is no situation that can't be dealt with in a better way than being kind to the other person.

"My mom always says, 'It doesn’t cost anything to be nice,'" he added. "I think even when you want to punch someone in the face, take a step back and try to be kind about it and it will go better."