Plus, what Mercury retrograde is and how it can play a role in your health, according to astrologer Valerie Mesa.

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Brierley and Carolyn are both registered dietitians. They are also the co-creators and co-hosts of the Happy Eating podcast, where you can learn more about Mercury retrograde in a two-part episode series, including their full interview with astrologer Valerie Mesa. Download Happy Eating on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you typically listen to podcasts.  

This is the third and final Mercury retrograde of 2021. (Next year there will be four.) This one started on September 27 and goes until October 18, and the period when Mercury is in retrograde has become a popular time, or "event," on which to blame things (think: fuzzy communications with friends or co-workers, breakups, delayed flights or just things that seem a little unusual).

But after we chatted with astrologer Valerie Mesa, we got a surprising new perspective. Turns out that when Mercury retrogrades, it has the potential to be quite positive. As Mesa explained, much of it depends on the lens that you look through.

Now, if you're thinking "mercury retro-what?" let us explain.

A woman stretching in workout gear on a background that includes an astrology chart and outer-space
Credit: Getty Images / Maskot, Fanatic Studio, Shin Tukinaga

First, What Is Mercury Retrograde?

Mercury retrograde is actually an illusion. From Earth, Mercury appears to be moving backward—even though it's not. It's much like when you're driving down the highway moving at a faster pace than the car in your neighboring lane: in comparison to you, they look like they're moving backward (even though they're not). In the case of Mercury and Earth, it looks like Mercury is moving backward because the two planets are moving at different speeds and we're positioned in a way that makes it noticeable. This illusion and placement of Mercury in the universe is often seen as a period of unrest or change in the astrology community.

"Because Mercury is the planet of communication, and our human software, it's how we gather information and relay messages. Mercury affects how we perceive information, and so when Mercury retrogrades, it slows down," explains Mesa. Put another way, when the planet of communication takes a little longer to move, it also reflects onto our current reality. The result can be mixed messages and perhaps small snafus due to the fuzzy communication.

Over the past few years, largely due to social media, this regular planetary illusion has become a mainstream topic, and it's become a popular—and somewhat comical—scapegoat of sorts and an occurrence that gets blamed when things go askew. In fact, even when Mercury isn't in retrograde, it's not unusual for people to jokingly ask if Mercury is actually in retrograde when unexpected events happen or communication wires get crossed. While this all may seem a little out there, Mercury retrograde is unique in that it's an element of astrology that you'll find even science-minded people taking note of or marking it in their calendar.

What to Do—and What Not to Do—during Mercury Retrograde

First, what shouldn't you do during Mercury retrograde? What you may have heard is true: astrologers will tell you not to sign any contracts, to double- or triple-check travel details before you head out the door, and not to start anything new that you hadn't contemplated prior (more on that below). However, Mesa suggests this is also a great time to step back and reflect. "There may be some glitches or some miscommunications," she says. "But, overall, this is a great time to see things from a different context or perspective."

So what should you do? "Anything that starts with a 're,'" says Mesa. Reflect, reevaluate, revisit. "This is a great time to complete a tedious task that you don't typically have time to work on," adds Mesa. Go back to something that is pending or unfinished, or take inventory of things, such as health aspects and habits you may have put on the back burner.

5 Things to Do for Your Health during Mercury Retrograde

Do a Self Check-In

How are you feeling physically, mentally and emotionally? One of the main themes of Mercury retrograde is to reflect, and so checking in with yourself should be at the top of the list. Keep in mind, too, that this is a time when things are slower, so use this pause to look inward. (Now's also a great time to practice some self-care.)

Meditate or Journal

If you're unsure where to start when it comes to checking in with yourself, meditating or journaling can be a great place to get started and get the juices flowing. Even if it's not your norm, or it's something that you have been wanting to try, doing so encourages reflection. Meditation also packs some seriously impressive health benefits, so now's a great time to head outside and try a walking meditation.

Don't Start Anything New

Sometimes you have to do something new (hello, LIFE!). But if you can put it off until Mercury is out of retrograde, that's the best route to go. For instance, don't start a new diet, join a new gym or embark on a brand new wellness routine. Mercury retrograde is more about a software reboot, not a new start!

Revisit an Old Workout Routine or Diet

While you don't want to embark on something new, this can be a great time to revisit an old workout routine that you dropped. Or go back to a healthier diet that you stopped following.

The theme of Mercury retrograde, according to Mesa, is anything that starts with a "re"—and in this case it's revisit. For example, if you were eating more whole foods at the start of this year, try restarting the Mediterranean diet. Or if you loved to walk outdoors during the beginning of the pandemic, but have since stopped your daily routine, try picking up this walking plan for weight loss or head around the block with your pup.

Know You May See Slight Health Changes

Anecdotally, Mesa mentioned a few health-focused examples that she and others in her line of work have seen pop up time and time again. For instance, your menstrual cycle might start late, or surprise you with an early visit. You may find yourself being more forgetful than usual.

Overall, Mercury retrograde can offer logic behind and validation for unexplainable events. The same can apply to astrology in general: it is one of the many tools to help us cultivate self-awareness to support overall wellness and health.