Have you ever found an old shoe box and spent hours poring over old letters, ticket stubs, photographs, and memories of the good old days?

These kinds of time capsules have been around for centuries – from the Hindu tradition of sharing memories at funerals to Instagram timelines littered with travel diaries, humans love to document their lives. But can these time capsules be more than just a rear view mirror we build for our future selves? Can they offer any benefits in the present as well?

We conducted three studies using “memory jars” – virtual and physical glass jars filled with memories, moments, and experiences – to find out.

Writing memories makes us happy

In our first two studies, college students and people who lived in old age homes (senior citizen homes) wrote 7 memories and filled them in physical glass jars. In our third study, random participants we recruited online typed in 7 memories to create “digital memory jars”. Across our studies, we found that people were happier, less lonely, and more psychologically well-off after writing their memories.