Muscle Memory Run Amok

Mom says, “The word that comes to mind is engaging.” She’s talking about this Bodies in Motion blog. She’s my biggest fan. How fortunate I am!

But here’s what else she said, after reading the Muscle Memory post: “Sometimes muscle memory goes awry. Like today, I was at the bank, and the teller handed me the receipt. I started to sign it – as if it were a credit card receipt. Isn’t that weird?”

Yes! Weird and common. I remember her joking about this while driving me to swimming practice. Sometimes we’d end up instead at the hospital, where she used to visit patients. “Whoops! The car just drove itself here!” she’d say, laughing.

I’ve “driven myself” many places I didn’t intend to go, because my muscles went on automatic while my mind went blank. I bet you have too.

“When you’re old, you worry that this is dementia – or that others will think it is,” adds Mom. In her case, fortunately, it’s not.

(She also adds responding to another post on this blog, “I AM old, by the way. I don’t mind the word. I use it all the time.” (She’s almost 83.)

She’s right about muscle memory. Our muscles respond in the ways they’re in the habit of responding. Our hands reach for French fries. Our mouths open. Our hands reach for more French fries. Mouths open again. All of this can take place repeatedly while the brain is fully engaged elsewhere – in a conversation, for instance.

Which is why good habits are so essential. Half the time, we’re not really consciously deciding what to do and not do anyway.

Our hands and mouths are just reaching and chewing, reaching and chewing… signing slips of paper…. driving in a certain direction… all because of habit.

Get in the habit of doing good things for yourself – and others – and doing good things will start to come naturally.


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