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Self-disclosure, mindfulness, and their relationships with happiness and well-being

Abstract

Background

This study aims to test how self-disclosure relates to mindfulness, whether self-disclosure or mindfulness best predicts happiness and well-being, and whether there are significant differences between happiness and well-being levels due to self-disclosure and mindfulness. Data from a public sample was collected using e-mails and social media platforms (N = 486).

Results

The findings demonstrated a weak relationship between mindfulness and self-disclosure (r = 0.16) and acting with awareness but a strong relationship between happiness, wellness, mindfulness, and its factors. The results revealed four values that predict the differentiation between happy and unhappy people, and these values are statistically significant, namely, mindfulness, description, acceptance without judgment, and self-disclosure, as well as four values that predict the distinction between being well and unwell, namely mindfulness, observation, description, and self-disclosure. Additionally, results showed significant differences in the means of each of the mindfulness predictor variables in favor of happiness, wellness, and females. For the self-disclosure variable, the results showed differences in its means favoring females, happiness, and wellness. Finally, when controlling for gender and age, regression analyses found mindfulness to be an important predictor for happiness and well-being at 59% and 48% of the variance, respectively, while self-disclosure was a weak predictor at 12% and 15%, respectively.

Conclusions

In general, the results indicate that mindfulness is more effective and beneficial for living a happy and healthy life than self-disclosure

Background

Positive psychology has received much attention in recent decades to the extent that many researchers believe this is the era of positive psychology [1]. Among the most critical variables studied in light of this approach are wellness, self-disclosure, mindfulness, and happiness, and many articles revealed a highly positive relationship between these variables [2, 3]. In the Hellenistic era, philosophers were the ones interested in the topics of happiness and wellness; however, at present, psychologists are now interested in studying happy people and the factors that contribute to living well. Nowadays, these topics are converging with both philosophers and psychologists attempting to integrate these concepts [4].

Happiness is an indicator of wellness, life satisfaction, and improved self-image [2, 5]. It boosts the immune system, regulates hormone levels, reduces inflammation, and promotes a healthy lifestyle [6].

Happiness is a positive emotional state with value and significance in all cultures. People differ in their preferences for desirable positive emotions and pleasure states, which Mauss et al. [7] referred to as valuing happiness. The scientific assumption is that most people strive to achieve higher happiness levels by achieving their goals. Several studies have shown a negative relationship between happiness and low wellness, poor social support, low academic achievement, and mood disorders. Accordingly, happiness is necessary for good life and wellness [8]. Ford and Mauss [9] have postulated three mechanisms by which happiness affects wellness: very high standards of happiness, over-reviewing pleasure experiences, and activities to follow up on positive outcomes and their permanence, resulting in negative emotions such as self-blame and apology. Accordingly, people seeking to improve their happiness levels may experience anxiety and depression and suffer from more life stresses [8].

Moreover, Bachik et al. [10] have stated that maintaining a high level of character strength leads to more positive and joyful results, including happiness, self-acceptance, life satisfaction, self-efficacy, psychological health, physical health, and the presence of a rich and beneficial support network, respect for self and others, job satisfaction, and healthy communication with family [11]. Studies have also shown a relationship between psychotherapy and happiness and wellness and a negative relationship between happiness and depression and people’s low experiences of happiness [12]. Wellness promotes the development of a person’s abilities and talents, allowing them to recognize and appreciate them [13]. Furthermore, wellness is associated with ideal weight maintenance and long-term weight loss [14].

Although happiness is a subjective self-feeling of well-being and contentment, it is affected by political and social conditions and is negatively affected by the lack of basic conditions of life [15, 16]. Happiness has many definitions, including the personal feeling that everything is fine, it relates to how people evaluate their lives, work, health, and relationships, and it also includes emotions of joy and attachment and the absence of unpleasant emotions such as anger, sadness, and fear [17]. Furthermore, happiness is defined as a stable situation in which the individual balances their desires and life satisfaction. It is also defined as using emotional and mental behavior to reach pleasant and positive feelings [18]. There are three main criteria for happiness: to be valued in all cultures, to be valued in themselves, and to be learnable. Moreover, four characteristics distinguish happy people from others: their love for themselves, their typical sense of control over their lives, a strong sense of control over their lives, and a tendency to be optimistic. Finally, most happy people are extroverted [19].

In 2008, a longitudinal study was published on the contagion of happiness that followed the lives of 4739 people over 20 years and found that the amount of a person’s happiness is significantly related to the happiness of those around them and that someone’s happiness increases the probability of the happiness of those around them by 25%, indicating that happiness spreads from the happy person to other around them [20]. Based on a review of previous studies, it is clear that Arab research on happiness is few and far between [18, 21, 22]. In any case, most research around the world faces a significant challenge in differentiating between happiness and wellness and that wellness is one of the components of happiness, with a separate definition for each [23].

The topic of mindfulness has received significant attention around the world, not only recently but also 2500 years ago, as it is one of the teachings of the Buddhist religion. Most religions worldwide use the contents and methods of mindfulness and meditation in some way or another [24, 25]. Mindfulness is defined as paying attention to the present and accepting its experiences with openness and no judgments. The main components of mindfulness are attention, intention, and direction, as well as the ability to focus on current stimuli and control them [26]. Many stimuli in life affect us frequently, and the mind does not respond to some of these stimuli and, in turn, focuses attention on others. Another benefit of mindfulness is that it allows us to distinguish between the various stimuli that we are exposed to [27]. Mindfulness necessitates paying attention to one’s experiences before deciding the path one intends to take. Therefore, we need patience, self-compassion, and acceptance [28]. According to studies, mindfulness is linked to many mental health issues because it can reduce psychological stress. When one’s level of mindfulness is high, this contributes to increasing happiness and sexual desire as well as self-disclosure. A high level of mindfulness also contributes to a better awareness of wellness because the individual will be able to deal with stress successfully when dealing with others [29,30,31,32,33,34].

Because mindfulness includes the mind (consciousness) and the heart (compassion), the quality of mindfulness training consists of both through meditation [35]. According to Kabat-Zinn [36], mindfulness depends on cultivating awareness to assist people in living the moment they love despite the pain that surrounds them. Mindfulness is nowadays one of the most well-known methods of psychotherapy used by most psychologists in all theoretical directions, from analytical to cognitive behavioral, and it serves as the foundation of the rational emotive treatment approach [37].

Self-disclosure is of great importance in the field of psychotherapy; it fosters trust and attachment between the therapist and the patient [38]. Self-disclosure does not imply that the individual is entirely transparent but rather that they must keep some secrets that cause embarrassment and insecurity, which might lead back to other psychological problems [39]. For decades, most definitions agreed that self-disclosure is verbal statements related to mental health and to a person’s experiences that are used to improve the patient’s mental health status [40]. Self-disclosure is defined as revealing personal information to others so that others are more aware and familiar with it. Online self-disclosure has become more common as social networking sites have grown in popularity [41].

According to research, 90% of therapists use self-disclosure; however, this technique is still ambiguous in terms of its effectiveness compared to other counseling methods. This ambiguity caused difficulties in comparing the effectiveness of self-disclosure with other counseling methods, as well as a lack of criteria to evaluate its effectiveness over time [42, 43]. Self-disclosure about significant events in one’s life can take several forms, including verbal and written disclosure, and over the last three decades, it has been shown to improve mental health and reduce negative emotions and pressures [44].

The study’s problem

Little data exist in the research literature on the relationship between self-disclosure and both happiness and wellness and the relationship between mindfulness and happiness and wellness. No study differentiates between the predictive ability of both self-disclosure and mindfulness in happiness and wellness. Thus, this study explores the extent to which self-disclosure and mindfulness predict happiness and wellness and the difference between them. The scientific assumption states that the greater the self-disclosure, the greater the happiness and wellness and the greater the mindfulness, the greater the happiness and wellness [45]. Therefore, the problem of the study lies in answering the following questions:

  1. 1.

    Is there a statistically significant relationship between both self-disclosure and mindfulness and happiness (happy or unhappy) and wellness (well and unwell)?

  2. 2.

    Is there a statistically significant relationship between the study variables that predict the degree of happiness according to the level of happiness (happy and unhappy) and the level of wellness (well and unwell)?

  3. 3.

    Are there any significant differences in the means of the self-disclosure and mindfulness attributed to the level of happiness (happy and unhappy) and the level of wellness (well and unwell)?

  4. 4.

    Which is the best predictor of happiness and wellness, self-disclosure or mindfulness?

The purpose and importance of the study

Some studies have found that mindfulness can help with emotional and wellness disorders [46]. As a result, the study’s significance emerged from the ambiguity of the reciprocal relationship between the effects of self-disclosure and mindfulness on happiness and wellness because no study combined happiness and wellness variables to investigate the relationship between self-disclosure and mindfulness and no Arab studies examined these concepts together or in part, according to the researcher’s knowledge. It is essential and valuable to investigate the extent to which self-disclosure is related to mindfulness and whether both self-disclosure and mindfulness predict wellness and happiness. This study aims to explore the differences in the means of self-disclosure and mindfulness according to related variables, which will be reflected on the clinical and therapeutic side and contribute to establishing the relationship between self-disclosure, on the one hand, and mindfulness, on the other hand, and both happiness and wellness.

Methods

Participants and procedures

The study sample included 486 people whose ages ranged from 18 to 62 years, with a mean age of 26.9 years and a standard deviation of 11.13. The sample consisted of 364 males (75%) and 122 females. In this sample, 42% were employed in either government departments or the private sector or had their own work or overtime work; the rest were unemployed. Additionally, the unmarried constituted 52% of the total sample of the study. The study’s data were obtained via social networking sites and e-mail, and each person was asked to kindly resend the questionnaires to all the individuals participating with them in the group so that they, in turn, fill out the scales and return them to the original sender, thereby increasing the size of the sample in a snowball manner. Approximately 543 questionnaires were sent, and it is worth noting that the contents of the questionnaire were sent using the Mourners Recruited system, which allows the data to be automatically unloaded.

The approval to participate in the research was obtained by informing the participants that they send the questionnaire only if the data were correct, and they were not obliged to fill it out and had the freedom to do so. The confidentiality of the information has been confirmed. Moreover, the results of this study and the information they send will only be used for scientific research purposes, and the identity of the examinee cannot be revealed. Most of the questionnaires were obtained via various social networking sites, and anyone under the age of 18 years old or not Jordanian was excluded. According to the principles of the Helsinki Declaration, which includes maintaining research ethics, there is no need to obtain official approval from any party or even from the scientific research committees as long as the examinees have the right to refuse to participate and disclose their names or any information indicating them.

Instruments

Self-disclosure

For assessing self-disclosure, we used the Jourard self-disclosure questionnaire [47, 48], which consisted of 60 items distributed at an average of 10 items for each of the following six factors: attitudes and opinions, tastes and tendencies, work and study, financial status, personality, and physical condition. It should be noted that the total score on the six dimensions in the self-disclosure questionnaire is determined by the extent to which the individual speaks about each of the items of each of these factors by choosing one of the following four alternatives: (1) I lie or present myself to the other person in a wrong way (0 degrees); (2) I do not talk about this item (0 degrees); (3) I speak in general and not in detail (1 degree); (4) I speak in perfect detail (2 degrees). Note that all the items are positive; thus, the highest score is 120 on the scale as a whole and 20 on each factor as a maximum. The lowest score is 0. The higher degree indicates a high self-disclosure, while the lower degree indicates a low self-disclosure. Sulaiman and Aldahadha [49] conducted the procedures of validity and reliability, where appropriate modifications were made to the original version. The values of the reliability by the test-retest reliability were 0.84 for the father and 0.90 for the friend of the same sex.

For this study, the validity and reliability of the tool were confirmed again. Then, the tool was presented to 10 arbitrators specialized in the field of Counseling and Mental Health at Yarmouk University and Mutah University, and the arbitrators approved the original version. The reliability was also evaluated using the test-retest method on a sample of 88 males and females. The reliability for the dimensions of the self-disclosure scale ranged between 0.89 and 0.64, while that of the scale as a whole was 0.87.

Mindfulness

Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS) [50] is a 39-item questionnaire. It was translated to the Arabic edition [24], with four subscales: observation, i.e., “I notice when my moods begin to change”; description, i.e., “my natural tendency is to put my experience into words”; acting with awareness, i.e., “when I’m reading, I focus all my attention on what I’m reading”; acceptance without judgment, i.e., “I make judgments about whether my thoughts are good or bad.” Respondents rate the extent to which they endorse each item on a 5-point Likert-type scale (never, very rarely, true, very often, or always(. The Arabic version was translated into English and presented to 10 arbitrators fluent in both Arabic and English to assess the extent to which the meaning in the English version translated from Arabic matches the original English version. The scale in its English translation from the Arabic version is exactly the same as the original English version.

The scale was tested by evaluating the validity of the criterion to confirm the validity of the scale. The scores of the total Mindfulness Skills Scale were positively correlated with those of the emotional intelligence scale [51] and negatively correlated with the scale of the neurotic responses [52] and the Automatic Negative Thoughts Scale [51], as the degrees of correlation were 87.0, − 82.0, and − 91.0, respectively. To ensure the scale’s reliability, the test-retest reliability, with an interval of 2 weeks between the two applications, indicated that the stability for the overall scale is 0.89. As for the scale factors, the Pearson correlation values were 0.78, 0.80, 0.76, and 0.88. Moreover, 25 items had a positive direction, whereas the rest had a negative correlation, the total score on the entire scale ranges from 39 to 195, and the higher degree indicated higher mindfulness skills.

The Arab Scale of Happiness

This scale includes 20 items, 15 of which measure happiness, as well as five filler phrases, so some respondents do not answer the scale at the same pace. Each item is answered based on the five-point Likert scale, which ranges from no (1) to very much (5). The total score on the scale ranges from 15 to 75, and a higher score indicates high happiness. For this study, a cut-off score of 31 and above was adopted for the high level of well-being. This scale is appropriate for adults and adolescents. The factorial analysis of the items of this scale revealed two factors: general happiness and successful life. The correlations between the item and the total score ranged between 0.42 and 0.77, and Cronbach’s alpha ranged between 0.82 and 0.94, indicating a high internal consistency and stability. Over time, the Arab happiness scale was also positively correlated with the measures of mental health, life satisfaction, optimism, love of life, and self-esteem, which ranged between 0.55 and 0.79. This scale has two versions: Arabic and English [53]. In this study, Cronbach’s stability was 0.85 and 0.90 in males and females, respectively.

Well-being

Tennant et al. [54] have developed a well-being scale, which consists of 14 items within a one-dimensional scale, and its items are answered in a five-step gradation according to the Likert scale, where the number 0 indicates “never,” while the number 4 indicates “daily,” and the respondents’ responses range from 0 to 56 so that the highest degree indicates “a high level of well-being.” For the purposes of this study, a cut-off score of 30 and above was adopted for happy people. Note that all the items on the scale are in the positive direction; for example, “I feel that I have extra energy”; “I deal with problems well”; “I always think clearly”; “I feel satisfied with myself.” The scale achieved good psychometric properties in its initial form and was used in many international societies and languages, including the Jordanian version [55].

Statistical analysis

Pearson’s correlation analysis was used to explore the relationship between self-disclosure and mindfulness; then, Wald’s test was used to detect scores for predicting wellness and happiness according to the self-disclosure and mindfulness scales and after controlling for age and gender. Multiple-way analysis of variance was used to detect the differences between happy and unhappy and well and unwell according to the self-disclosure and mindfulness variables and their factors. Finally, the hierarchical regression analyses of well-being and happiness were applied.

Results

A correlation analysis was performed between the study variables to answer the first question, “Is there a statistically significant relationship between self-disclosure and mindfulness and both the level of happiness (happy and unhappy) and the level of wellness (well and unwell)?” The results showed a weak correlation between mindfulness and self-disclosure (r = 0.16) and the factor acting with awareness (r = 0.14) and between the factor acting with awareness and unhappy people (r = − 0.15). On the other hand, a statistically significant relationship was observed between happiness and wellness and its levels and mindfulness and its five factors and self-disclosure. As expected, the results showed a negative relationship between the unhappy people factor and all measures and the unwell factor. See Table 1.

Table 1 Spearman’s correlation results between happiness, well-being, mindfulness, and self-disclosure

To answer the second question, a linear regression analysis was performed to compare the happy and unhappy people factors. The results showed that four values predict the differentiation between happy and unhappy people. These values are statistically significant: mindfulness at Wald = 11.07 and its significance level at p < 0.01; description at Wald = 4.68 and its significance level at p < 0.05; acceptance without judgment at Wald = 6.53 and its significance level at p < 0.05; self-disclosure at Wald = 8.59. Table 2 also shows that four values predict the differentiation between the well and unwell factors. These values are statistically significant: mindfulness at Wald = 19.03 and its significance level at p < 0.01; observation at Wald = 7.81 and its significance level at p < 0.05; description at Wald = 9.74 and its significance level at p < 0.05; and self-disclosure Wald = 11.02.

Table 2 Logistic regression analysis of well-being (well and unwell) and happiness (happy and unhappy)

To answer the third question, multiple analysis of variance was performed. Table 3 represents the means and standard deviations of the self-disclosure and mindfulness variables in light of independent variables to verify the significance of the differences between the means. The results showed significant differences in the mean of mindfulness attributed to the variable happiness and in favor of the happy factor (F = 12.132, p < 0.001). The results showed differences in the mean of description attributable to wellness (F = 6.66, p < 0.010) and acting with awareness factor in favor of females (F = 4.38, p < 0.037) and wellness (F = 6.60, p < 0.010). As for the dependent variable, self-disclosure, the results showed differences in its mean score in favor of females (F = 8.49, p < 0.004), happy (F = 7.51, p < 0.006), and wellness (F = 5.84, p < 0.016). Note that the effect size of the significant values ranged from a weak value to a medium value. See Table 4.

Table 3 Means and standard deviations of mindfulness, self-disclosure, happiness, well-being, gender, and age
Table 4 Multiple-way analysis of variance between mindfulness and self-disclosure of happiness, well-being, gender, and age

A regression analysis was conducted after fixing the happiness and wellness variables as dependent variables to answer the fourth question. Table 5 shows that gender and age were added in the first step, explaining 9% of the probability of happiness. However, gender had a statistically significant effect higher than age (t = 1.71, p < 0.01). When mindfulness was added in the second step, 59% of the probability of predicting happiness was explained, which is also statistically significant (t = 3.82, p < 0.001). In the third step, self-disclosure was added to explain 12% of the total interpretation of the independent variables for happiness (t = 0.89, p < 0.01). Finally, Table 6 shows that gender and age were added in the first step and they explained 8% of the probability of wellness. Moreover, gender had a higher statistically significant effect than age (t = 1.55, p < 0.01). When mindfulness was added in the second step, 48% of the probability of predicting wellness was explained, which is also statistically significant (t = 3.93, p < 0.001). In the third step, self-disclosure was added to explain 15% of the total independent variables for well-being (t = 1.32, p < 0.01).

Table 5 Hierarchical regression analysis of happiness as dependent variable (N = 486) and gender, age, mindfulness, and self-disclosure
Table 6 Hierarchical regression analysis of well-being as dependent variable (N = 486) and gender, age, mindfulness, and self-disclosure

Discussion

This study explores the relationship between self-disclosure and mindfulness in light of the variables of happiness and wellness. The results revealed that the relationship between self-disclosure and mindfulness was weak and not statistically significant. In other words, no scientific or therapeutic inference can be obtained between them. Furthermore, the results showed a weak and not statistically significant relationship between acting with awareness and mindfulness and acting with awareness and unhappiness. On the other hand, all the other relationships between self-disclosure and mindfulness in light of the happiness (happy and unhappy) and well-being (well or unwell) variables were statistically significant. This result can be explained by the fact that happiness and wellness can be achieved through the practice of self-disclosure and mindfulness. These findings concurred with the results of Fowler and Christakis’ [20] research, which indicates that happiness spreads from the happy individual to those around them

The results showed that four values predict the differentiation between happy and unhappy, and these values have statistical significance: mindfulness, description, acceptance without judgment, and self-disclosure. The results also showed that four values predict the distinction between the well and unwell variables, and these values have statistical significance, namely, mindfulness, observation, description, and self-disclosure. Thus, we can say that a positive therapeutic value is attributed to the mindfulness variable and its three domains in predicting happiness and wellness [8], while the field of acting with awareness had no therapeutic value. Accordingly, these results enhance the effectiveness of positive psychology in obtaining a happy life full of wellness; therefore, they pave the path toward dealing with life’s stresses and overcoming many psychological disorders [56].

The results showed that both gender and age explained 9% of the probability of wellness and gender had a higher statistically significant effect than age. When mindfulness was added in the second step, it explained 59% of the probability of predicting wellness, which is also significant. In the third step, self-disclosure was added to explain 12% of the total explanation of the independent variables for wellness. Finally, both gender and age explained 8% of the probability of wellness, and gender had a statistically significant effect higher than age. When mindfulness was added in the second step, it explained 48% to explain the probability of predicting wellness, which is also statistically significant. In the third step, self-disclosure was added to explain 15% of the total independent variables for happiness. These results indicate that mindfulness is more powerful in predicting states of happiness and wellness than self-disclosure because mindfulness mainly focuses on the present and ignores the past and the future. On the other hand, self-discovery focuses on recalling the painful past and predicting an unknown future. The results of this study are very much in agreement with the results of previous studies [4, 24].

This is the first Arab and international study to explore the extent to which self-disclosure and mindfulness are related to happiness and wellness in a sample of public people. For the first time, this study has used two scales together: mindfulness and self-disclosure, which are codified in the Arab and Jordanian environments. Moreover, this study has essential dimensions in terms of providing psychotherapists with new facts about the importance of focusing on the concepts of self-disclosure and mindfulness in living a happy, healthy life, and wellness, in addition to exploring the difference in the predictive ability of each in happiness and wellness. Alternatively, while the results of this study are directed toward positive psychology, there is a saying that states, “the goodness shows his fineness the opposite,” as it is important to benefit from the findings of this study to treat most psychological disorders. Furthermore, most of the results indicated a correlation between mindfulness and self-disclosure and the rest of the study variables, according to a number of studies [29,30,31,32,33,34].

Conclusions

Therefore, we recommend conducting new studies on a sample of patients and other groups of mental disorders. The findings are determined by the extent of the sincerity of the respondents’ answers to the scales, keeping in mind that the sample was general and was done based on the person’s desire to fill out the questionnaire. In general, the results indicate that mindfulness is more effective and beneficial for living a happy and healthy life than self-disclosure.

Availability of data and materials

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Funding

The research leading to these results has received funding from Mutah University.

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Aldahadha, B. Self-disclosure, mindfulness, and their relationships with happiness and well-being. Middle East Curr Psychiatry 30, 7 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s43045-023-00278-5

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Keywords

  • Mindfulness
  • Self-disclosure
  • Happiness
  • Well-being