by Allison Kate

If you’re like me, you’re often met with the question “why?” when telling those not in-the-know about your dice collection. I feel like I’m constantly having to explain myself and my unique interests. But the answer is simple: dice make me happy! From the beautiful colors, sharp edges, and the thousands of different ways that creators can visualize these polyhedrals, what’s not to like? 

I have been known to struggle with my mental health—especially when the winter months set in, but dice and the community around them have lifted my spirits and helped me roll out of those dark times. There’s just something so soothing about pulling out your favorite set and rolling them around in your hands to help you center you. I have even been known to roll dice in my hands while working or reading. But when it comes to mental health, where do dice come in? Are they helpful, or hurtful? Through the course of this series, we will explore how dice have an impact on our state of mental well-being; both positively and negatively. 

Our mental health deals with how we think, feel, and behave. We all have different ways to care for our mental well-being, but we all come together about dice. Whether you are a collector of opaque pips or a consumer of those rare aquerple dice, those shiny math rocks have a claim over part of us. While researching for this post, I came across DMC member Kevin Cook’s web page where he boasts a collection of over 97,000 dice. What drives someone to actively seek that many dice (and count that high)? Taking a “dice collecting” gander through Google, it is clear that we collectors are not alone. There are videos of people on Youtube showing off their dice collections, social media accounts dedicated to dice, it seems there are dice people everywhere. 

I was interested in the psychological effect that collecting can have on a person’s mental health, so I did some research. You can check out the studies and facts I found at the end of this post, but what I gathered from my reading was… interesting, to say the least. Aside from the many, many articles about hoarding (it’s not if it’s dice…), I also learned that according to Freud, our predilection to collecting items comes from our potty training days. Apparently we don’t like sharing or giving up things that belong to us, including… Well, thanks for that image, Freud. 

So, what are the reasons we collect? For fun, investment (have you seen the prices for some of those borealis dice lately?!), social advancement, to keep a little piece of the past, and also the more mental aspects of collecting: security, filling a void, or making yourself seem more esteemed. Whatever the reason, they make us happy! So why stop? 

The simple act of fidgeting with dice can have a calming effect on many individuals. Those with ADHD or anxiety, as well as individuals on the autistic spectrum, can find it soothing to roll the dice around their palms or watch a die as it spins to a complete stop. I found an interesting article about the benefits of fidget devices to those with ADHD or anxiety.  The authors mention that most people have used a fidget item at one point or another in their lift (clicking a pen, for example) and that this helps retain focus when working on a longer project or sitting in a meeting. The article also mentions that some people use these objects as a “smooth stone”—rubbing their fingers over it and feeling the texture to help bring a sense of the here and now. While there hasn’t been a lot of research on the impact of fidgeting, the article mentions a study that was done that allowed children to move around while completing a task that required them to concentrate. This study found that those children who were allowed to move around (bounce a leg, wriggle in their seats) did better on the tasks than those who were not permitted to move around. As adults, it is less socially acceptable for us to be bouncing in our seats or moving around a lot while trying to complete our work so being able to have small fidget items (such as dice) is a perfect way for us to move a bit while still remaining focused on our work.

Another aspect of collecting that hadn’t occurred to me until researching for this post was the skills we develop through collecting. According to this article, collecting things we enjoy can actually have a positive impact on our brains. Some of the skills that can be built by collecting things are our powers of observation, organizational thinking, creativity, and pattern recognition. It also gives us an opportunity to learn and research and can lead to supporting a good cause, making social connections, or even forging a career path. 

At first, I wasn’t sure that I believed that these things could be possible from collecting dice, but after thinking about it for a while, I do feel that these can relate. We definitely have an increase in observational skills and pattern recognition. Just think about those among us who can recognize the difference between new and old glitter borealis from a photo—or tell the difference between different dice companies based on the font on the number 4 or if there is a dot or line to indicate the 6 or 9. These are skills that take time to develop. Our organizational thinking skills are definitely at an increase here too. How else would we be able to find that one specific set of dice out of the thousands we may own? Do you organize your dice by color, company, number of sides, character they are used for? All of this takes a heightened sense of organization. 

Looking back at a DMC post from December 2018, the admin team makes mention of using dice as a way to escape from the day-to-day stresses of life as something to enjoy when you need to unplug. Maybe you are admiring someone’s newest dicemail haul, a new display, or re-ink—whatever the reason, it’s clear that we are all rolling together in the dice world. While there are clearly many positives to collecting dice, nothing is ever perfect. Next month, we will explore how collecting can be a potential hazard to your mental health, and ways to reduce the negative impact the hobby can have. In the meantime, let us know in the comments how you have used dice in your life to help your mental health!

Further Reading