This woman has been leaving sticky notes with positive messages across Portsmouth

Everyone has bad days.

Sometimes it can be a painful chore to get up in the morning, a drag to get ready and a hard job to just get through the day.

Emily Keel with some of positive notes at Eastney Esplanade. Picture: Sarah Standing

Emily Keel with some of positive notes at Eastney Esplanade. Picture: Sarah Standing

And when it feels like the world is against you, wearing a smile feels like an impossible task.

But this 24-year-old is on a one-woman mission to change that and spread happiness across Portsmouth – in the form of sticky notes.

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Emily Keel, of Hilsea, is the founder of the Portsmouth Happiness Project which was created in July 2018. 

Founder of Portsmouth Happiness Project Emily Keel, 24, from Hilsea. Picture: Sarah Standing

Founder of Portsmouth Happiness Project Emily Keel, 24, from Hilsea. Picture: Sarah Standing

‘It just came to me and I thought it would be a nice concept to introduce to my home city,’ explains Emily, ‘they are simply positive messages to put a smile on someone’s face.’

And she has remained anonymous – up until now.

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‘My family and boyfriend know about the project and think it’s great. They just let me get on with it.

One of the many inspirational messages by the Portsmouth Happiness Project. Picture: Sarah Standing

One of the many inspirational messages by the Portsmouth Happiness Project. Picture: Sarah Standing

‘It has been anonymous for a while – I don’t think anyone at work knows I do this so it might come as a bit of a surprise,’ she laughs.

Armed with a pen, hundreds of multi-coloured notes and Sellotape, Emily has been decorating Portsmouth with inspirational quotes and kind words such as: ‘Your feelings matter. Be kind to yourself.’

Her aim, she says, is to make someone feel better about themselves, even for a split-second.

And it’s a project which Emily appreciates the importance of because she has had first-hand experience of feeling down in the dumps, with the lack of energy to pick herself back up.

Another example of notes by the Portsmouth Happiness Project. Picture: Sarah Standing

Another example of notes by the Portsmouth Happiness Project. Picture: Sarah Standing

‘I have had anxiety on and off for a while now but earlier this year I really wasn’t feeling great. I had had a tough time with my previous job and with myself,’ says Emily, who works as a personal trainer and part-time chef at Southsea Coffee Company. 

With an estimated 288,000 people living in Portsmouth, just over one fifth of them struggle with a mental health problem each year, according to Portsmouth City Council.

Therefore Emily believes her project is more important than ever. 

‘I have realised mental health problems are so common now – everyone needs a pick-me-up sometimes.

‘I went travelling a couple of years ago and was drawn back to Portsmouth. But I kept on hearing people say how much they hated it here,’ explains Emily.

‘But I love living in Portsmouth and I think some people take for granted what they have. So many great things happen in the area and sometimes the residents may need a boost.’ 

With a constant stash of positive notes in her bag, Emily has made the presence of Portsmouth Happiness Project known by sticking her quotes up anywhere and everywhere she can. 

‘At first I was trying to write and post a message around Portsmouth everyday but now I average three or four a week,’ she says.

‘It probably takes a few hours out of my time – but that’s not a lot at all.

‘I just write whatever inspires me.’

Born and bred in Portsmouth, Emily admits most of her messages have landed in Southsea because she spends so much time there.

But when asked whether she would like people to join her positivity mission, she was overjoyed at the thought. 

‘I would love for other people to put them up across the city,’ she says, ‘you just need to be brave enough to say it and give others that little boost.’

Ever since the Portsmouth Happiness Project was founded five months ago, its social media presence has grown.

With 100 likes on its Facebook page, 620 followers on Instagram and more than 100 posts to #PortsmouthHappinessProject, Emily hopes its numbers will continue to climb.  

‘When people have messaged me and attached pictures to their stories on Instagram tagging the project – it feels amazing to make a difference,’ says Emily with a wide grin on her face.

Now knowing the impact her project is making on others, this happiness advocate is adamant that her work will continue because her job isn’t done quite yet. 

‘I really enjoy the project. It’s vital for people to think positively.

‘This has helped me get out of the rut I was in – I want other people to feel like they could do that and focus on the good things,’ adds Emily. 

‘You never know what’s going on in someone’s life so it’s important to be kind. I love the thought of putting a smile on someone’s face.’ 

Watch a video about Emily and the Portsmouth Happiness Project at portsmouth.co.uk/lifestyle.

How to be happier and more in control…

It’s important to know how to pick yourself up when you are feeling down. The NHS have devised four easy tips to make yourself feel better.  

For further information on how to reduce stress  go to the NHS website at nhs.uk/