Mercury Retrograde: What It Is, When It Is, & How It Affects You

While the effects can feel annoying, Mercury retrogrades bring lots of opportunities into your life. Here's how to make the most of them.

Updated July 12, 2023
planets closest to the sun

Computer glitchy? Could be that Mercury is in retrograde. Can't get Zoom to work for your meeting? Might be Mercury retrograde. Travel plans get messed up? Mercury may be in retrograde.

Why is it that when things get a little glitchy, the first thing some people do is check to see if Mercury is in retrograde? Here's the short answer: because a Mercury retrograde can sometimes mess with stuff - especially communication and electronics devices.

What You Need to Know About Mercury Retrograde

So what is Mercury retrograde? It's an astrological phenomenon that occurs three to four times per year when the planet Mercury appears to move backwards in the sky. I say "appears to" because retrograde motion is an optical illusion that occurs as a result of the orbits of each planet and their relative position to the sun. But that optical illusion affects how the planet moves in your astrological chart, and that has distinct effects on your life.

All planets retrograde, but you're most likely to hear about a Mercury retrograde for a few different reasons. First, Mercury retrogrades happen more frequently than any other planet - three to four times per year for a period of about three weeks each. Next, Mercury retrograde's effects are very noticeable, and nobody is immune to them.

Mercury Retrograde Dates 2023 Through 2028

Here's when Mercury retrogrades begin and end from 2023 through 2028.


  • January 1-January 18
  • April 21-May 14
  • August 23-September 14
  • December 13-January 1


  • April 1-April 25
  • August 4-August 28
  • November 25-December 15


  • March 14-April 17
  • July 17-August 11
  • November 9-November 29


  • February 25-March 20
  • June 29-July 3
  • October 24-November 13


  • February 29-March 3
  • June 10-July 4
  • October 7-October 28


  • January 24-February 14
  • May 21-June 13
  • September 9-October 11

Common Mercury Retrograde Effects

Mercury retrogrades commonly affect things like communication, travel, and technology, and these effects can be annoying. But they're not without purpose. Planetary retrogrades give you the opportunity to clear out things in your life that no longer serve you.

1. It Messes With Communication

frustrated woman looking at phone

The planet Mercury rules communication. When Mercury is rolling forward as it normally does across the sky, it can help communication go smoothly, particularly as it enters your astrological houses. However, when the planet seemingly reverses direction, it has the opposite effect, muddying the waters as you try to communicate with others.

For people who are sensitive to this type of energy, you may find yourselves mired in misunderstanding, even with those closest to you. For example, you may find that your bestie - someone you can say anything to any other time - suddenly starts taking offense to things, even those that would normally crack them up.

Don't despair! While a Mercury retrograde can muddy the waters among even the best communicators, this issue also has an upside. Mercury retrograde reminds you to choose your words carefully, listen thoughtfully, and consider how others feel when you speak. Miscommunication in a Mercury retrograde can also act as a catalyst to help you clear up any tensions that might have been simmering, unspoken and unacknowledged, under the surface.

To help with communication during a Mercury retrograde:

  • Brush up on your listening skills.
  • Choose your words carefully when you speak or write.
  • Address any misunderstandings with the intention of creating stronger relationships.
  • Be especially careful with online or text communications, which can be dicey even when Mercury is traveling the proper direction across the sky.

2. It Makes Technology Glitchy

For all the sophistication of products that make our lives simpler, technology can be a little glitchy from time to time. Who hasn't had a Zoom chat freeze at a critical point in the conversation? While these occurrences are minor, everyday inconveniences that come from living in a high-tech world, they can turn into a major hassle during a Mercury retrograde.

When Mercury is in retrograde, it gets blamed for practically every technical hiccup, from lost data to device crashes. Messages get lost. Computer screens freeze. In a technologically driven world, these small inconveniences pile up quickly until sometimes it feels like you're spending more time working around technical issues than you are being productive.

With a little patience and some kickin' it old school (such as using a paper calendar or reading actual hard copies of books), you can sail through a Mercury retrograde relatively unscathed.

To cope with the technological inconveniences of Mercury retrograde:

  • Back up your data.
  • Keep a backup hard copy of appointments and to-do lists.
  • Try to spend technology-free time every day.
  • Look up from your screens and spend some face-to-face time with others.

3. It Encourages Creativity

Mercury rules rational thought and supports left brain activity, such as analytical thinking. When it appears to move backwards in the sky, the emphasis switches to right brain activity, such as creative thought and intuition. With the extra difficulty of thinking rationally and the emphasis on your right brain, it's the perfect time to hone your creativity.

These flashes of creative insight can help you find new ways to solve problems that have been around for quite a while. Put together killer outfits you'd never considered before, create a new, tasty dish in the kitchen, or indulge in other activities that you enjoy. And when your mind feels muddy during a Mercury retrograde, sit quietly for a few minutes with your eyes closed. Tune in and allow your creativity to flow.

4. It Invites You to Look up From Your Screens and Re-engage With the World

woman on paddle board at Lake Louise

We love our screens. Everywhere, people ignore the world around them and stare at the tiny screen of their devices. However, with the technical glitches that often run rampant during Mercury retrograde, you might find your devices not working like they normally do.

While on the surface it may seem tragic you can't watch that TikTok of a French bulldog puppy eating its way out of a watermelon, in truth, it provides you with a wonderful opportunity to lift your eyes from the screen and take a look at the world and people around you. Suddenly, you see in front of you your much beloved significant other, who is also blinking confusedly at their lack of smartphone availability. Look into their eyes. Smile. Have a chat. Go for a walk.

So the next time your device refuses to open that new reel, see it as an opportunity. Use the time to engage with the world around you in a meaningful way. Forget about technology for a while. The French bulldog puppy will still be in that watermelon in a few hours.

5. You Can Rediscover a Lost Treasure

With its retrograde (read backward) energy, this period often draws your personal energy into the past. That doesn't mean you need to get lost in it, however. Instead, you can use this emphasis on the past to draw it forward and into your life in a meaningful way. Like finding the necklace you lost six months ago. Or reuniting with your college roommate, whom you lost touch with 30 years ago.

Use this energy to reach out to someone important from your past. Look them up and send them a quick message. Return to a project you dropped and finally finish it. Think about where you were and what you were doing the last time you saw an object that's gone missing. Doing so may help you rediscover lost treasures of many kinds.

Mercury Retrograde Presents Opportunities

Sure, the 14 or so weeks out of a year that Mercury is in retrograde can feel like an inconvenience, but it's all in how you look at it and use it. Mercury retrograde may mess with certain energies in ways that feel negative, but it's really an invitation to explore and engage aspects of yourself and your life that you've been neglecting.

Mercury Retrograde: What It Is, When It Is, & How It Affects You