For Americans living in Australian Thanksgiving is this Thursday (or Friday when I will be celebrating) and I, for one, am really excited for it. I wrote last week about how addiction affected my family in a negative way but what it actually brought about, with time, what an incredible connection with my family. While studying in America, Thanksgiving turned into a holiday that became special for my mother and brother.
We would wake up Thursday morning, drive to the river, hike and climb on the cliffs. One year I fell into the water which, being so close to winter, was frigid and kind of ruined the hike. We would come home, cook a chicken (because a turkey was too large for the three of us) and sit around the table talking about the things we were grateful for.
Although we all know too well the effects a trauma can have on a person, a shift in thinking can help us to see the growth that can occur in the right setting. One view of this is called Post-Traumatic Growth. If we have the opportunity and capability to heal our wounds we may be able to find the gifts born out of such difficulty. For us, that is closeness, trust and relationship.
Thanksgiving, or “Giving Thanks”, is also important to me from an American Indian perspective. Some of my previous work experience has brought me close to elders and facilitators of the sacred traditions of America’s indigenous people. Such ceremonies are the Sweat Lodge, the Give-Away and Sun Dance. Many of the rituals I have participated in all start with gratitude. In most that I have witnessed, gratitude was given to the earth, community, family and elders.
While I was living in Alaska I was fortunate to be able to immerse myself into a strong indigenous culture. We had storytellers travel from far and wide to tell us about their teachings and held potlucks regularly within the community. I met children that knew how to hunt and forage using traditional methods and saw the power of a small community that held the strength of their ancestors and the story of their survival. They were grateful for who they were, where they were and who they were around. And living in Alaska is hard!
Although Thanksgiving is also a traumatic story for many American Indians I recognise their influence on how important it is to remember what you’re grateful for. This blog was sparked by an article I saw talking about how your brain reacts to gratitude. It’s amazing. If gratitude is so helpful, why not have a holiday for it. I even have a fantastic book of Native American poems all dedicated to Thanksgiving and the art of gratitude.
For Thanksgiving this year, in Adelaide, I am having some of our closest friends over, Renee is cooking a turkey and we will sit together reflecting on all the things that we are grateful for. Here are a few of mine:
Even if you do not celebrate Thanksgiving, you may like to see what can happen if you sit with your family and friends and talk about gratitude. After all, it is the best drug for your brain!
Will Dobud MSW
True North Expeditions, Inc. provides adventure therapy programs and services for children and teenagers in Australia. Based in Adelaide, the TNE team writes about child and adolescent psychology, family dynamics and how adventure therapy programs can connect with struggling adolescents.