Of course I wanted solutions to pull myself out of an irritable rut—but I also wanted to learn how to avoid that rut in the first place. Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, PhD, author of Hardwiring Happiness, believes that we can retrain our brains to focus on the positive and prevent ragey feelings from taking hold. This doesn't mean thinking about glitter and sunshine when you'd rather slam the bathroom door. It's about consistently paying attention to what makes you feel good and then spending time actually doing it. The goal is to shore up reserves for when things go off track. It's not unlike the logic of getting a flu shot—you want your defenses up before the bug hits. To inoculate against AWS, Hanson suggests taking note of as many small, happy moments as you can throughout the day and stopping to enjoy them. "Researchers have found that people who regularly practice mindfulness tend to have more neural connections in the regions of the brain associated with self-awareness—making them less likely to react negatively to frustrating situations," Hanson says.

I knew my madness had to stop when I found myself cringing at the end of every day over how I'd snapped at someone—my poor boyfriend, a coworker, a cashier at the drugstore. Step one was buying a pair of sneakers and dragging my cranky self outside for a run. From there I inched my way forward, making a point to reconnect with friends I'd been "too busy" to meet up with; doing little things for myself, like buying a new bottle of my favorite lotion; and cooking more often—an activity that, while time-consuming, relaxes me.

Don't get me wrong—I still catch myself mid–eye roll when someone sits directly in front of me in yoga class. (It's called staggering, girlfriend.) And last week when I was grocery shopping, a guy banged his basket right into my elbow and kept walking. I wanted to stomp up to him and say, "Um, excuse you." Instead I reminded myself that a plastic basket isn't an assault weapon and focused on the delicious stuffed squash I was planning to make. Sure, he'd thrown the first (most likely innocent) jab, but I've learned to stop jabbing back.

Caitlin Moscatello is a writer based in New York City. Her work has appeared in Glamour, Redbook, and Sports Illustrated.

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