The numbers are hard to fathom: One in five Americans suffers from persistent loneliness. Loneliness increases the chances of preventable death by 14% which is nearly double the risk of early death by obesity.

Many of us are connected to people who are lonely. Yet, we often don’t know it because we live in a society where we expect people to answer “Fine” when asked “How are you?”

Build Stronger Connections

The good news is that there are many simple yet powerful actions each one of us can take to alleviate loneliness that require little time or money. Here are just three:

Take five minutes a day to express appreciation in person, over the phone, or in writing to somebody who has made a positive difference your life.

Think expansively. Is there a relative, friend, teacher, neighbor, customer, retail worker, restaurant server, flight attendant, custodian, or postal employee you want to thank? Your shared gratitude may be one of the best presents they ever receive.

Perform a random act of kindness for a stranger.

It could be as simple as holding open a door or elevator for somebody who is not expecting you to wait for them, or buying a hot meal for somebody shivering on a street. When you think about how you can manifest kindness you will be amazed at the opportunities that present themselves.

Turn social media clues into meaningful interactions.

Don’t settle for hitting “send” on the default messages (“Happy Birthday!” or “Congratulations!”) that social media platforms serve up in your news feed. Instead, take a moment to share a memory with an old friend. Offer encouraging words for a colleague’s achievement. Share information or advice to help someone achieve a goal or dream.

Take the Connection Pledge

Loneliness is often associated with the holidays, or with the elderly. But the fact is that loneliness is a year-round affliction that affects people of all ages, races and income levels. What are some of the simple actions you can take to build stronger connections and make your life richer and the world less lonely?