You know that old saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”? Well, if your confidence is a little shaky and you’re looking for a self-esteem boost, a better saying might be, “When life gives you lemons, make sure you smell them.”

Lemony fresh means light, light, light

Researchers at the University of Sussex in England conducted a study that involved two experiments related to scent and its influence on body image perception. For the first study, participants had to sit and take in a variety of smells. They rated each smell via computer using the Visual Analogue Scale to get an idea of how people perceived each odor and the associations they had for them.

For the second experiment, the participants again had to sniff different odors. But this time, the researchers had the participants stand on a wooden board. They wore headphones, motion-capture sensors and a device that influenced the pitch of their steps. The participants then had to walk on the board and tweak the size of a 3D avatar based on how they saw themselves and their bodies. And lastly, the participants filled out a questionnaire on how they felt and their perceived speed.

When all was said and done, participants reported that they felt lighter when they got whiffs of lemon. They felt heavier with vanilla. And the researchers were able to enhance those results by messing with pitch of the participants footsteps-;lemon combined with higher-pitched footsteps meant an even greater feeling of lightness.

Making the office sweeter with something sour

The study is intriguing for you at the office for two big reasons. First, we’ve all had those days where we just feel like sluggish blobs and can’t seem to get our motor going. Smelling a little lemon might be a nifty way to trick your brain out of that mushy perception so that you feel like your body is light, agile and ready for productivity. That might be especially handy after you indulge a little too much during that catered office meeting.

Secondly, there’s no sugar-coating the reality of America’s obesity problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says that the prevalence of obesity stands at a staggering 39.8 percent of adults in the United States, translating to roughly 93.3 million people. And unfortunately, people still judge others for better or worse according to their shape, weight and overall appearance.

But behaviors also connect to your mindset, emotions and perceptions. If you feel lighter, you might be less inclined to engage in negative behaviors that could hurt you on the job, such as opting not to ask questions or shying away from team building events because of body insecurity.

The big question, though, is how to enjoy the scent of lemon while still being sensitive to the needs of others. Not everyone enjoys it when odors are strong, even when those odors are relatively pleasant, and certain people are more sensitive to smells physically, such as getting headaches. And more research needs to be done in terms of whether the scent of lemon needs to be natural or whether a manufactured version might suffice.

But as the facts come in, probably the easiest way to lighten up with lemon would be to add some sliced lemon to your reusable water bottle, or to fix yourself a lunch with lemon as an ingredient (e.g., salmon salad with lemon dressing). You also could try keeping a bottle of essential oil handy in your purse, pocket or desk drawer. Whatever you pick given the courtesies necessary at your office, citrus is your friend.

Published on: Sep 13, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.