A few years ago, Mercury retrograde was a term used only by astrologers and your one friend who commissions full charts every time she starts dating a new guy. But somewhere along the line—powered by the heady combination of online horoscopes and social media—most of us have learned enough about Mercury retrograde to blame it for, well, just about anything that goes wrong: a crashed computer, a delayed flight, or the nightmare iPhone-dropped-in-a-public-toilet scenario.
But Mercury retrograde (which occurs when the planet appears to be moving backwards—it typically lasts about 20 days, and happens three or four times a year) isn’t just a cosmic Murphy’s Law joke. “The current approach to Mercury retrograde is about as low-vibe as it gets. There’s so much fear-mongering,” says Lennon Mara, a writer and astrologist who blogs at Moon+Quartz. “[But] to me, they are some of the most magical times that I get to experience.”
You read that right: The period can actually be a super positive one. During Mercury retrograde (which begins December 19 and lasts until New Year’s Eve), the subconscious mind is on more equal footing with the conscious mind than normal, she explains—thus the “haywire” reputation comes from the conscious mind being less effective at controlling everyday things. But Mara argues that this makes it a perfect time for transformation.
So she launched the Retrograde Project, an ongoing series of online workshops, to do just that. “Mercury retrograde is a time when evolution on a subconscious level is possible, which is a great opportunity because we don’t always have access to that level of thought,” she says.
What else is good about Mercury retrograde? Mara shares five reasons we should celebrate.
1. It’s a great time to change your habits
If you want to kick sugar, drop your wine o’clock habit, start a new workout regimen, or begin a meditation practice, you’ll find it easier during Mercury retrograde, Mara says. “It’s a really useful time for shifting your mindset, repetitive habits, or thoughts,” Mara says. And here’s the good news/bad news: Yes, you will experience “subconscious resistance,” as Mara puts it, but in a healthier way. “Instead of having sugar cravings and not knowing why, it can be really useful to really see these negative thought patterns and say, ‘Okay, I see now what’s going on underneath.’ And you can tell those thoughts, ‘Hello! Glad you’re here. I’m still doing this no-sugar thing, okay?’ That’s what the awareness lets you do,” she says.
2. A little introspection will go a long way
“Self-knowledge and self-awareness during this time—when you’re literally ‘hearing’ subconscious thoughts a bit louder—let you make deeper discoveries. You can see the old issues that have been driving things from a deep level that you weren’t aware of,” Mara says. “If you just observe this mindfully, by the time Mercury goes direct you can let things go; you can move into a new life.”
3. New mantras adopted during Mercury retrograde will be super-powered
“Because we have more access to the subconscious mind, we have more influence. So if you want to adopt a mantra during that time, that’s a really useful tool. Your subconscious mind will absorb it, and you’ll be better able to integrate that mantra into your conscious mind,” she says. (Well+Good readers have some great ones, if you’re looking for ideas.)
4. Your creativity will be off the charts
The key is to not judge or edit yourself as you create, Mara says. “Keep track of your drafts, keep track of that process. Don’t be too quick to believe the judgments in your head. Through the process of Mercury retrograde you can be very prolific, with a lot of subconscious stuff coming up,” she says. “I find that if I just keep going and doing the work, later I will understand it in a different, deeper way than I do when I’m writing.”
5. You’ll be more intuitive
“I think it’s disturbing to people who aren’t used to having access to that intuition, which is part of why people feel kind of off-kilter during Mercury retrograde,” she says, explaining that every mishap—like that submerged iPhone—can be a meaningful event if approached from a nonjudgmental, mindful point of view.
“You drop your phone in the toilet—and I literally have done that three times—and your frustration is about everything that comes up from that: I lost all my contacts; I feel weird because I’m dependent on technology and don’t know my best friend’s phone number; I have to buy a new one and I can’t afford it [because] I’m bad with money. All of this negative self-talk comes up from these things that happen. And by hearing it, you can engage with it and let it go,” she says. “It’s about mindfulness; it’s definitely an invocation to pay attention.”