Sanaa Lathan opens up about her decision to quit drinking alcohol

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Sanaa Lathan is opening up about the lifestyle changes she's made over the past few years.

In this week's issue of PEOPLE, the actress, 49, details her decision to quit drinking alcohol three years ago and the steps she's made to better her overall mental and physical health.

"I stopped drinking about three years ago," says Lathan, who will be starring in the upcoming Netflix series Hit & Run. "Alcohol was not going well with me physically. Just, it was not working anymore. It affects everything, and that's part of the reason why I stopped, because even if you're going out a couple of times a week and you're drinking, it was starting to affect me throughout the week. It wouldn't be necessarily a hangover, but it definitely dimmed my energy. I didn't feel as good. It was affecting anxiety."

"You don't realize how over time it gets your brain out of balance as well," she adds. "And the more I educated myself on really what it does to you ... I have a mother who has never drank, and she's probably the funnest person, the happiest person, because there's this whole belief that you can only have fun with alcohol. I had to really reprogram that aspect, because it's just all over in our culture. So, I haven't missed it. My life has definitely become more of a morning life, but I can still go out and have fun."

Lathan, who also journals regularly as a form of self-care, says meditation has helped her cope with the stresses of every day life.

"I grew up with a mother who taught me about meditation so, I did it on and off," she says. "The reason why I came to this practice was several years ago, I went through a lot of trauma. I had a best friend who died suddenly. She was not sick. It was completely unexpected. I didn't process it. I was in a shock type of situation."

On top of suddenly losing her best friend, Lathan says she was also dealing with more trauma all at once that eventually led to panic attacks.

"I didn't process it and just kept on being the strong girl, being a strong woman," she says. "And then several months later, I started having panic attacks. I didn't know what a panic attack was. Little did I know that it's a real thing, and I would get three to five a day, even if I was happy."

"I went to the doctor and he was like, 'This is a result of trauma that you did not process correctly. It's when your body. It's handling it.' And he was like, 'There's medications, but you can try holistic things first.' And I always tend to do the holistic thing first, before I go a traditional route. So I started [meditating], and as soon as I started, they went away. There's so many benefits. And so, I'm a huge believer, a huge advocate."

Now, Lathan — who plays journalist Naomi Hicks alongside actor and creator Lior Raz in the Netflix thriller — says she feels "blessed" for the life she's created and the work she continues to do.

hit and run
Hit and Run
| Credit: Jojo Whilden/Netflix

"I just feel really blessed to be on this journey, as challenging as it's been, of being an artist in this business," she says. "I don't take for granted the success that I've had. Yes, it has been tough at times. There've been times where I have wanted to give up, and yet, I am so incredibly grateful for just to be able to continue to tell these stories and do what I love."

Hit & Run premieres on August 6 on Netflix.