How to Be Happy, According to Taye Diggs

The actor talks fatherhood, visual art and conquering insomnia

April 5, 2023 9:45 am
A photo of Taye Diggs superimposed on a cloud background.
This man is good at a long list of things. But he needs a full eight hours like the rest of us.
Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images

Even in an industry of multi-hyphenates, Taye Diggs has been doing a whole lot for a long while. The 52-year-old actor-singer-choreographer has been at it since the mid-1990s, when he first appeared in Jonathan Larson’s Rent. Over the years, he’s added extra hyphens — producer, children’s book author, and of course, father, to his son Walker.

There’s one problem with doing that much: you need your energy. And for a while, Diggs (a seemingly-perenially fit man once declared the peak of male excellence by 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy), didn’t have much to go around. He couldn’t sleep.

“I was struggling to stay awake because I couldn’t get a full night’s sleep,” Diggs tells InsideHook. “I didn’t want to admit I had insomnia…I have a good amount of pride and ego. [But] once I got over that, I looked into it.”

Over time, the 52-year-old managed to conquer his restless nights, which has had a monumental impact on his happiness. We spoke to Diggs about art shows, getting older and the simple joys of shooting hoops with his son.

Diggs: “When I’m anxious, I’m not in the best state to do my best work. I need to be relaxed, I need to be comfortable with myself.”
FilmMagic for Backstage Creation

1. What are some healthy habits you try to stick to in your daily/weekly routine?

I try to make sure I’m eating as properly as possible, which is tough, as I have a thirteen-year-old who loves the occasional junk food snack. I split custody with his mother so I like to be the cool dad that lets him eat way more sweets and soda then he gets to have at his mom’s. But we try to stay healthy when it comes to what we eat. Me and my son are both very athletic so we make sure we’re active. There’s a spiritual aspect, too — I try to meditate at least a little bit every day. It centers me. And obviously sleep. I make sure I do what I need to do to get a good night’s sleep. QUVIVIQ really helps with that. Finally, there’s my social life. I try to make sure I give back to myself and hang out with people that make me laugh and make me feel good because the older I’m getting, the more I’m realizing that the better I feel throughout the day, the better life is.

2. What’s something that you changed at some point in your life, and found you were happier for it?

I feel like I’m just at the age where I can answer that. Earlier in my career, I was taught to work as hard as you can, because however much effort you put into something, you’ll get that back. In this business, you’re kind of being force-fed whatever other people are doing, and how they’re doing it, and you’re trying to catch up. What I realized is I’m at my best when I let things come to me and make sure that I’m having fun and make sure that I’m enjoying myself. It’s very easy, especially in my business, to get caught up in what you think you’re supposed to do. And even when things are going well, you don’t get the time or you don’t have the energy to really enjoy the fruits of your labor. So, that’s something that took a minute for me to realize but it’s working and I’m trying my best to keep on that path as my career goes on.

3. What challenges in your career are most likely to sabotage your happiness?

Two things. The first being — and this is a big one — caring too much. For me, when I care too much, when I worry, I get anxious. When I’m anxious, I’m not in the best state to do my best work. I need to be relaxed, I need to be comfortable with myself. I need to be comfortable with my surroundings. And all that stems from how I feel about myself. Secondly, sleep. You know, there was this period of time where I was not getting enough sleep for me to go to work and do what I love to do. I could see it immediately in the results…and that’s when I asked to see if there was anything I could do. It was affecting my work and my life and I couldn’t have that.  

100 Ways to Live to 100: The Longevity Fitness Guide
Coastal living, board games, not eating hot dogs. It’s all in here.

4. What strategies do you employ to get the sleep you need?

I like to think of myself as humble and grateful. But I have a good amount of pride and ego. I didn’t want to admit I had insomnia. To me, there was a stigma attached to it. People with insomnia had a problem; they had an “issue” or something that wasn’t right in their regular lives. I just didn’t know. I did know people with insomnia — but I looked at them like they were kind of weird. So the first thing I had to do was admit to myself and once I got over that, I looked into it. I spoke to my doctor; QUVIVIQ was one of the options he gave me. I was surprised at how much my entire life changed, once I was able to get the proper amount of sleep I needed to be me. That was huge. I haven’t used a lot of other sleep aids, but I know sometimes your system can get used to what you’re taking and the sleep habit actually gets worse, or your system adapts and it doesn’t work as much. My sleep patterns have actually getting better as long as I’ve taken it consistently. I feel very fortunate. Relieved.

5. What’s your preferred method of exercise?

My son’s an amazing athlete…constantly playing basketball. I play with him to try and keep up. But I would consider myself a gym rat. The older I’m getting, the less time I like to spend in the gym, so I have to kind of force myself. But I still love the idea of being able to control my body — since I’m a bit of a control freak — by going to the gym. And now that I’m well rested, I don’t have to worry about taking too many energy drinks just to be able to function, because I’m getting the proper amount of sleep.

6. How has your perspective on happiness changed as you’ve gotten older?

If I’m being honest, it’s a little more difficult to stay happy as often because I’m realizing how I’ve been raised, how I’ve been affected. There are things that I want to change about myself. I’m realizing that I do need to change a lot about myself, and I’m actively changing a lot about myself. That being said, when I am happy, it is true happiness and it’s not surface. So those moments are showing themselves more and more often.

Diggs with his son Walker, courtside at a Lakers game in 2018.
Kevork S. Djansezian/Contributor

7. What sort of art inspires you these days?

Later in life, it’s been visual art. The man that illustrates my children’s books, Shane W. Evans, I came from a place of only having his art. Now I’m getting older and branching out and really appreciating other visual artists. There’s this dude named b. Moore who is amazing. I just went to one of his shows with Apryl, and I love being visually stimulated in that way. I also used to choreograph, and I want to get more back into that.

8. What’s one place that always brings you joy?

Walker. Being next to Walker, and then after Walker it’s being with Apryl, and then after Apryl it’s being with my family and friends.

9. Parting words of wisdom?

I would say listen more and talk less. Listen more and talk less.

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