The Power of Journaling

By Alice Domar, PhD
Executive Director
The Domar Center for Mind/Body Health at Boston IVF


I have been following the research of psychologist James Pennebaker, Ph.D for almost 20 years.  He has been researching the impact of writing about one’s thoughts and feelings on mental and physical health and the data is amazing. Much of his research has been with people who have experienced a trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse, experiencing a hurricane or tornado, witnessing or being a victim of violence, or participating in a war. Simply writing for 15 to 20 minutes for several days can decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve immune function, and significantly reduce doctor visits for months afterwards.

I have seen the results firsthand. Anyone who has read the chapter on infertility in my first book, Healing Mind, Healthy Woman knows that writing for 20 minutes for four days is part of the mind/body program.  The patient interviewed tells her story in a very compelling way. She wrote for 20 minutes in the group, felt very sad afterwards (it is common to feel worse initially but after writing for another couple of days, the improvements hit), but then continued to write and as she puts it, “I woke up and my world was in color again”.  Her black cloud lifted and she felt better than she had since before they started trying to conceive.

Pennebaker’s instructions are simple. The results are slightly better if you take pen to paper but if that isn’t appealing to you, you can write on a computer. Write about your thoughts and feelings, don’t worry about how sloppy your handwriting is, your spelling or punctuation, or censor what you are writing. And don’t plan to show it to anyone-this writing has to be for just you.  Keep it up for four days and you will likely feel an emotional lift.


Alice D. Domar, PhD is a pioneer in the application of mind/body medicine to men’s and women’s health issues. She not only established the first Mind/Body Center for Women’s Health, but also conducts ongoing ground-breaking research in the field. Her research focuses on the relationship between stress and different women’s health conditions, and creating innovative programs to help women decrease physical and psychological symptoms.

Dr. Domar received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Health Psychology from Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Ferkauf School of Professional Psychology of Yeshiva University. Her post-doctoral training was at Beth Israel Hospital, Deaconess Hospital, and Children’s Hospital, all in Boston.

She has conducted research on infertility, breast cancer, menopausal symptoms, ovarian cancer, and premenstrual syndrome. Dr. Domar has earned an international reputation as one of the country’s top women’s health experts.

She is currently the Executive Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, and the Director of Mind/Body Services at Boston IVF. She is an assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School, and a senior staff psychologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Dr. Domar has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments as a best-selling author, media authority and sought-after public speaker. She is the author of numerous books, on the advisory board for Parents Magazine, Health Magazine, Conceive Magazine, and Resolve, and on the Board of Experts for LLuminari. Two of her books have been finalists for the Books for a Better Life Award. She was also the Series Editor for a series of mind/body books by Harvard Medical Publications/Simon and Schuster. She is the narrator of the DVD’s “Stress and Relaxation Explained” and “Infertility Explained”, both of which won silver Telly Awards.  Dr. Domar has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Dateline NBC, CNN, PBS, and the CBS and NBC Evening News, to name a few. She presents lectures and conducts workshops throughout the US and around the world and went on tour with Oprah in the spring of 2004 and 2005 with the LLuminari team. Dr. Domar was named to the prestigious list of 15 “Women to Watch in 2004″ by Lifetime TV. Her newest book is “Be Happy Without Being Perfect” (Three Rivers Press, March, 2009) and she is currently working on a new book, co-authored with Dr. Susan Love, called “Live a Little” (Crown, December, 2009). She is also a featured expert on the new online social health network