Hold your hands in front of you and look at your pinkies—do you see a dent, or is one of them misshapen? If so, you might actually have a 21st-century deformity called smartphone pinky, caused by the strain placed on the little finger when holding a cell phone with one hand.
It’s not the end of the world for your fifth digit. It’s probably reversible with some time away from the little screen that runs your life. To help, we’ve put together five tips for putting your phone down and focusing more on what’s happening around you, saving your pinkies and helping you connect with others.
1. Turn your phone off
Just shut it down for a bit. You’ll be free from the frequent beeps and buzzes that come with push notifications and turning your phone off from time to time is good for your battery life.
2. Stack your phones
When you’re hanging with your crew doing something social like dinner, drinks, or painting at a bar, have everyone put their phones in a pile. Phone stacking is fun because then you know everyone is focused on having a good time together and not just on what’s trending online. Make it even more interesting by agreeing to buy a round—or pick up the check—if you pull your phone from the stack to check your notifications.
3. Leave your phone in another room
Out of sight, out of mind. If your phone isn’t in front of you, you’ll be more likely to focus on who and what is in front of you. Plus, it’s a good time to let your device charge back up. If you’re worried about leaving your phone out of view, just turn it on silent and put it in your purse or pocket.
4. Designate time to get away
Set up a recurring calendar event to get some time away from the screen. Maybe it’s just an hour or so once a week, but eventually you’ll form a habit and you can use the time to do something productive, which leads us to tip number five.
5. Pick up a hobby
This is the perfect opportunity to pursue an activity you’ve always wanted to get into—especially if it requires both hands (that way you can’t have your phone in front of you even if you wanted). Try knitting, buy a new cookbook and try out some different recipes in the kitchen, take up gardening or pick up a paint brush and cocktail and exercise the right side of your brain at Paint Nite. It doesn’t have to be for more than an hour or two, but having something to show for your time will make you feel more accomplished.
The point of all these tips isn’t to totally abandon your smartphone (how else would you take selfies?!), but to give you a chance to step back and focus on what matters. Personal growth, relationships, fitness, a new skill—whatever it is, don’t be afraid to ditch the device and enjoy the freedom!